On the basketball court, there exists a fine line between intensity and recklessness. And while I wouldn't go so far as to call recent-vintage Knickerbocker clubs "dumb" they certainly had a difficult time keeping on the right side of that line. Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire usually found themselves near the top of technical fouls list. J.R. Smith was J.R. Smith. Opponents knew that rough play would be rewarded -- the Knicks would usually get caught retaliating, or whine to officials over missed foul calls. In a fast-paced sport where focus is paramount, New York was at a clear disadvantage.
And then we all saw something at the end of Tuesday night's win in Atlanta ... something marvelous, something that we've never quite seen before.
The beauty of this play goes beyond the fact that freakin' Jose Calderon scored a game-clinching layup. It was a moment symbolizing the triumph of heady, mature basketball over reckless, emotional basketball ... only this time, the Knicks were the mature team!
Consider the Hawks' defense. They had crawled back into the game by ramping up the intensity, even going so far as to provoke Latvian Jesus. All they have to do is stop New York one more time and put themselves into position to tie or win. Paul Millsap bodies Melo while Dennis Schröder hounds Jose Calderon. They do everything in their power to deny Melo the ball, and it works:
With the clock winding down, Calderon makes a desperation jump-pass to Lopez, who is bodied by Al Horford, and we're all like "WTF????"
The Hawks have all five players pretty well covered at this point, when Schröder decides to get a little greedy, and Lopez freezes him with a beautiful fake pass back in the direction of Calderon.
Nobody rotates to the cutting Calderon, who has a clear path to the rim.
The Hawks played energetic, aggressive defense for 19 seconds, but got too aggressive at exactly the wrong time. How often has this same thing been done to the Knicks over the years? I'll get back to you once NASA finishes calculating.
While a hard-fought win over a good opponent is always appreciated, it was the way the Knicks won that truly mattered. Yes, they stood up for Kristaps when Kent Bazemore tried to punk him ... that's great. What's better is that they stayed focused and let the other team implode at the last minute. I could get used to watching this.