Winning four out of five? Good. Winning five in a row at home? Good. Reaching the .500 mark after mostly 15 years below? Good. The Knicks these days? Good! New York won a hard-fought back-and-forth, come-from-behind affair with the Portland Trail Blazers, 107-103. Eight seed: unlocked.
Both teams came out strong, which for these two clubs usually means coming out strong on offense. Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose were hitting for the Knicks, and while Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were not for Portland, Ed Davis was. The second quarter was highlights galore, highlighted by a gorgeous Derrick Rose hanging up-and-under reverse and Kristaps Porzingis throwing a lefty facial down on Mason Plumlee, a.k.a. The Other Non-Marshall Plumlee. The Knick bench was in it from the start tonight, led early on by Brandon Jennings’s passing and antagonisms; after trailing by nine, New York came back to go up seven. A strong Blazer run to close the half made it 60-58, Knicks.
The game was still tied entering the fourth. Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Justin Holiday played big minutes, hit shots when they had to, defended, and drew charges (though Evan Turner lost Kuzminskas so bad Kuz’s ghost will forever haunt that one part of the floor). Porzingis hit jumpers. Portland kept coming. Allen Crabbe got fouled on a three and hit all three free throws to put the Blazers in front. Consecutive Rose baskets gave the Knicks a one-point lead. Kuzminskas pushed it to four. Rose missed a runner with 30 seconds left, but Melo hauled in the offensive rebound, clinching the win while saving millions of Knick fans from “Why didn’t you pass to Porzingis?” meltdowns. For a few nights, at least.
- Ten in the fourth for Rose. Having three guys you can trust late in games to create for themselves? Word.
- Some more nice action tonight by the Knicks involving Porzingis in motion — cuts to the hoop, alley-oops, etc. KP scoring from off-the-ball movement? That’s a thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.
- Porzingis busted out an off-the-dribble step-back three. He liked the taste of his first 30-point game last week against Detroit so much, he had himself another tonight. By the end of his career we’ll all look back and laugh that we once attempted to measure the scope of the Unicorn with earthbound numbers.
- The European Union, a.k.a. Kuzminskas and Hernangomez, gave quality minutes in the fourth. Kuz played the whole quarter, hitting from three with the shot clock running down and 2:30 left. He also grabbed the final rebound to end the competitive festivities. Career-high 10 points for the Lithuanian and a team-leading +12.
- The bench brought it all night tonight. Jennings was big in the first half and finished with 11 assists and no turnovers. Make sure you’re sitting down: add those numbers to Rose’s and the Knick point guards had 16 assists and 1 turnover. Sweet Georgia Brown!
- St. John’s alum alert: Moe Harkless had 15 points and eight rebounds while playing tough defense on Melo. RED STORM!
- Some smart positioning by Holiday rotating out of the restricted area let him draw a charge in the fourth with the game very much in the balance. That’s not a box score thing. So it’s getting love here.
- The Jennings/Porzingis chemistry is triggering Stephon Marbury/Keith Van Horn and Mark Jackson/Patrick Ewing memories of great Knicks chemistry of yore.
- Jennings became the first Knick with 10+ assists off the bench in 3+ games since Jackson in 1991. Ergo, the Knicks will reach the Finals in 2019.
- Take a quiet moment to enjoy a Knick team with multiple guards who can dribble penetrate.
- Take it.
- Jeff Hornacek drew a technical foul. Seeing Hornacek of all people getting a T is like catching McGruff the Crime Dog snout-deep in a pile of yayo.
- You know how some animals eat their own poop? I don’t mean desperate, starving animals. I mean how some species are just down with that. Every time the media runs with “Team X held a players-only meeting and won their next game! CAUSATION!” like MSG did leading into the game, I picture comfortable animals eating poop.
- Wally Szczerbiak announced Rose’s athleticism “is back” after he got good airtime on a nice hanging layup in the opening half. Not gonna say it. You know without me saying it. Get thee off the air, Wally.
- After Rose rattled home a pull-up jumper in the dying seconds, MSG showed Bill Bradley in the crowd, loving it. In the seat next to him, Phil Jackson barely allowed himself to emote, knowing 6.8 seconds is an eternity. Remember the contrast between Bradley and Jackson’s reactions when wading through all the “Why did Phil quit?” thinkpieces next summer.
Quoth normanhathaway: “xtra chz.” Twas a good day to be the man known as Cheese, Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The Knicks are off til a weekend home-and-away set with Eastern power Charlotte. Take advantage and enjoy the holiday, yo. Whatever you eat, however you celebrate, let there be extra cheese.