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Knicks 110, Nets 96: ‘I almost like this lineup...’

Melo made minced meat.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The early returns on this game were troublesome. Brooklyn casually walked into triples, outworked New York on second efforts and were prepared to feed the open man all game. Justin Hamilton was eating absolutely everybody’s food. Kristaps Porzingis played cautiously after a quick foul and then having a dunk blocked. Carmelo Anthony was ice cold in the first half. The Knicks managed to chip away thanks in part to Brook Lopez being on a minutes restriction and the Nets lacking consistent guard play with Jeremy Lin out.

Then came the third quarter. Jeff Hornacek, clearly searching for something effective, tossed out what seemed like the least effective lineup possible. Carmelo decided to reward the counter-intuitive move by going molten and scoring 14 consecutive to close the quarter and give the Knicks the lead. From there, it was all lava cake.

  • Right to the last drop, the Knicks refused to run Justin Hamilton off the three-point line. Not clear what the strategy was there. I guess actually sometimes you feel too open, and you overthink the shot and short arm it. Maybe that was the idea — he’ll short arm it. Something tells me Hamilton would be a cautious dribbler if you would just close out on him. I guess maybe because Kurt Rambis doesn’t believe big men should shoot threes, you should just leave them open? If so, that’s a great choice on defensive coordinator there. It’s clear that everybody bought in. Seriously though, how you gonna let Chris Kaman’s baby son go totally off on you like that?
  • Brandon Jennings continued to come off the bench and set the garbage on fire. He and Maurice Ndour had a little bit of symmetry on the defensive end. They applied pressure way up high trying to force some bad decisions and did get the Nets to stall out a few times. Sadly the weight was off kilter on offense and passes would either be too high, too far or too quick. Jennings did get it going when the deep bench came appeared in the third quarter and made it look wabi-sabi on his way to 11 assists.
  • Brandon absolutely got hung on the rim after a whistle and the whole Knicks team got the giggles. He also made the pass of the night to Kristaps for a two-hand terror.
  • Like P&T’er xobserverx, I ended up kinda liking some of these bench lineups. I particularly like the bench guys coming in and extending the pressure. The Nets obviously couldn’t deal with it for long stretches and the mostly careful team coughed it up 18 times on the night. The defensive rotations and second and third efforts are not there though. Making this strategy extra dangerous. That Jennings guy also does a lot of unnecessary switching because he’s so amped up, which confuses his teammates.
  • Kyle O’Quinn and Ndour have slightly buttery fingers. They get it done sometimes, but they always seem to fumble the thing away and have to make a simple play a roller coaster ride.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic is maybe no good. He looks like he has a puppy’s sheared belly fur on his bald skull.
  • Speaking of looks, Mindaugas Kuzminskas looks like Big Ed from Twin Peaks. Slim Daug had some wonderful plays out there. A glorious step back three and a nice face up drive and dish to Willy Hernangomez for a jam.
  • At one point Junkyard Daug and Sasha Vujacic were +28.
  • Sasha is good at stirring shit. Tonight’s focus was rich man’s Jimmer Fredette, Joe Harris. I don’t think you want your shit stirrer going at the ninth man. If you want skin to get under, go at Trevor Booker. Get lumped. I guess Booker is probably too fast for Sasha to catch. Nevermind.
  • The first few plays of the game got Derrick Rose driving into the middle out of Triangular curl plays. They looked good and popped open some nice things, including Porzingis getting a nice look for a wing three. The offense was static electric most of the night. Clinging awkwardly and then shocking things free. Not ideal.
  • Carmelo was the guy tonight. Just give him the zaniest teammates you can and he’ll start shredding. His third quarter isolation attack spurred a cohesive fourth as the Nets got cut down in the clear. From there the teamwork came easy as Brooklyn shaded but never doubled and suddenly the floor was busted all open.
  • Willy Hernangomez is the best. First of all, after an emphatic rejection, Clyde called him “Hernan the Gomez”. His defense all around even seems pretty reasonable! He probably isn’t going to stop Brook Lopez, but Joakim Noah doesn’t do that either (only Robin Lopez can do that). Conversely, Willy can finish inside with flair and is always connected to his teammates, easily finding them or passing them open with little flips and dump offs. I’d take Willy’s consistency over Kyle O’Quinn’s feast or famine for a while and see how his teammates help lift him up. The ball moves more freely and Willy just knows how to cook. Everybody eats. Yuh!

What’s not to love? Brooklyn isn’t exactly the opponent that strikes fear into your heart, but the Knicks need to see some successes, however small. The rotation is still all over the place, the defense is still wobbly and the offense can look stiff. Interesting challenge coming up against a Boston Celtics team that has not hit ground running and has some injury woes. Stay tuned, toons.