Good Lord, that was an instant classic. What a freakin' game.
There's so much to cover here, but we'll start with the macro stuff -- that's a six game home winning streak, and the Knicks are over .500 for the first time since November 21st, 2015. In a game that was eerily similar to their last game against the Trail Blazers, the Knicks managed to overcome a big deficit and grab the W after a ridiculously back-and-forth game. Instant classic.
After a standard (and pretty boring) first half filled with too many fouls, bad pick and roll defense, and acceptable offense, the rest of the game was a roller coaster of emotions. An 18-2 run to close out the 3rd quarter was sparked by fantastic team defense, and it led to the Knicks' first (and last) transition points in the entire game.
But we all know what the big story is here...
Season high in points, rebounds, assists, and minutes. One huge block in overtime. The game-winner over two defenders after his first attempt barely rimmed out. He was absolutely sublime. He did it all. There's nothing more to say. Unbelievable performance from a guy who has gotten a ton flak these past few weeks. His late-game heroics shouldn't overshadow a fantastic all-around performance on both ends of the floor: 35 points on 25 shots, 14 (!!!!) rebounds, 5 assists (!!!!), 2 steals, and one clutch block. He's the first Knick to put up those numbers in a decade. Seriously. As P&T'er rcnt123 pointed out, there was no stopping him on this night.
- After doing his best Benjamin Button impression and looking like a rookie again thanks to too many fouls, Porzingis came up big to close this one out, with a couple of resounding blocks (Frank Kaminsky will never be the same) and 8 points in the 4th quarter, including a pair of threes. He was out of rhythm all night, fumbling routine passes and mishandling the ball, but managed to have a big impact regardless. I wish he would pick his spots from behind a little better on offense to maintain his remarkable efficiency numbers, but he still shot 50% from 3 in this one, which is insane. He somehow finished with 16/8 with 3 blocks. He's still a star.
- The Knicks continued to excel on the offensive glass, grabbing 13 and wreaking havoc even when they didn't manage to collect the rock. They still need to do a better job picking their spots to crash the boards, however; transition defense is pretty difficult when you overcommit without securing the rebound.
- Pray to every major and minor diety that Justin Holiday is OK. He came back in after hurting his shoulder on a Tyler Zeller screen in the first half, but barely played from that point forward and only got up one shot (a miss) after scoring 9 in the first half, mostly by clowning Marco Belinelli on back-cuts. With Lance Thomas injured and playing terribly, Holiday might be the most irreplacable piece on this team outside of Melo and KP.
- The pick and roll defense is still a flaming pile of trash situated on a landfill that is a bigger, stinkier flaming pile of trash. It's impossible to consistently contain a PnR against modern NBA teams playing 4 shooters and a roll man like Charlotte, but the Knicks have really struggled to make correct rotations and help out the guys trying to defend this routine action. It got a bit better in the second half, but this is still the biggest problem on defense -- a lot of the bad perimeter defense (read: mad open 3's) stems from this.
- Derrick Rose is now 7 for 11 in clutch situations, and he hit a banker late in the 4th from the same spot where he buried the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Spooky. For all his struggles -- and he blatantly missed a wide-open KP behind the arc a couple of times, as usual -- he's been incredibly effective late in the game. He also got the Knickerbockers' third overtime block on Kemba Walker to close it out. Real point guards are pretty awesome!
- The Knicks got two buckets in the final minute of the 4th quarter by running the Triangle two-man action. Melo was stationed at the elbow while Rose worked around him with the ball in his hands. This generated a patented Melo mid-ranger, and on the very next play, Rose was able to get to his spot for the aforementioned banker. I'm still not sure how sustainable that is, but so far, it's been pretty effective.
- Charlotte refused to double Melo all throughout the game (remember that 62 point game, when they didn't double him until he had 60 points? Yeah), probably because of the scoring threats surrounding him. They finally sent a double in overtime, and it led to an open corner 3 for Porzingis, which he drilled, because what's a Hornet to a god?
- The Hornets pulled a Knicks -- they went 17-27 from the free throw line, and gave the game away as a result. Nic Batum, a career 83% shooter, shot 3-6. Cody Zeller, a career 75% shooter, went 1-4. Kemba Walker, a career 82% shooter, went 3-5. Savor this one, because we've seen it happen to us too many times.
- The Knicks actually did a decent job defending the 3-point line tonight. Charlotte averages 30 attempts per game, and only got up 27 tonight, with a couple of bad shots included. Outside of Marco Belinelli, who was 5-6 and led Charlotte with 19 points (???), the rest of the Hornets shot 3 for 23. That's 13%, for those of you who also ignored your math teacher throughout high school. Some of that is just bad luck for the Hornets, but the defense was better tonight, especially in the 4th quarter and overtime.
- Charlotte REALLY missed Marvin Williams, who injured his knee in the 3rd quarter. Frank the Tank was generally bad as his replacement, and on top of that, Kaminsky played 40 minutes off the bench with another matchup coming tomorrow. Batum killed the Knicks with a near triple-double (18/9/9) but he played 45 minutes as well. Look for fatigue to be a factor -- Melo played 41 minutes while expending a ton of energy. Both Kemba and KP had relatively light workloads, so I expect both to be much better tomorrow night.
- 28 bench points, led by Holiday with 9. Sasha Vujacic played 4 minutes and put up donuts across the board. Give me Ron Baker. Please. Also, Willy Hernangomez was a +16 in 20 minutes, while Kyle O' Quinn was a -10 in 17 minutes. Big Willy Style and Melo had some fantastic sequences in the pick and roll during the 4th quarter. Kid is only going to get better.
- Normally, Friday Night Knicks results in a 30-point loss in overtime after that disastrous Kemba and-one to tie the game in regulation. I felt it, you felt it, we all felt it. Didn't happen. Incredible resilience. Hopefully the beginning of the end for the Friday Night Knicks curse.
Fantastic win. Over .500. MSG is a fortress. Clutch buckets. Back-and-forth game. Knicks taking advantage of another team’s mistakes for once (1st half foul trouble & free throws). This is as good as it gets considering where this team has been for the past couple of years. Take a minute to sit back and be thankful for your New York Knicks on this beautiful Friday night.