Imagine your next holiday office party, and it probably goes something like this game. Even if it starts out well, it gets marred by a bunch of personal fouls, and resignation to a mediocre time for all sets in despite the desperate flailings of some folks who are probably past their prime. If you get through it OK, it’s still more a relief when it’s over than anything.
After running up healthy leads four separate times and fouling the Wolves back into it, the Knicks went with a surprising bench lineup that built a 17-point fourth quarter lead—which rapidly evaporated as starters returned and missed a dozen consecutive shots. Minnesota tied the game with less than a minute to go, and with one shot left in regulation, New York chose an iso for Carmelo Anthony, who had been heaving bricks to the tune of 4-of-15 to that point. This predictable endgame assuredly aroused the start of many a headshake among Knicks fans that would eventually be appropriate whether Melo missed or made it.
Melo threw Andrew Wiggins a quick stutter-step jelly leg, then a jab step and low rip-through in concert to the right, prying loose the inches needed to get a clean shot away. He never put the ball on the floor until it went clean through the hoop with 2.3 seconds left. Nonplussed relief washed over the crowd at home (OK, and maybe a smile) as Melo did that thing he does.
Most Go-Ahead Made FG in Final 5 Sec of 4th Qtr/OT— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2016
Carmelo Anthony 15
Kobe Bryant 12
Dirk Nowitzki 12 pic.twitter.com/adgwxE82od
Then, with two seconds remaining, and the specter of the indomitable Karl-Anthony Towns looming near Minnesota’s basket, Melo broke up the in-bounds pass to end the game, prompting commenter jacoop to offer the hyperbolic but fitting, “lmao we did it.” Let us dance and exhale and shrug all at the same time! These guys get it:
With that gentle upbeat soundtrack in your head, let’s move to the notes:
- Melo settled for 15 jump shots in this one, only making a single half-hearted move to the lane all game. Despite his otherwise unimpressive counting stats (including -17 plus/minus), he actually looked to move the ball for a good part of the game, even without the parental chiding from the Garden crowd. He didn’t take a shot until 10 minutes into the game. He also played some of the toughest and cleanest interior defense of the night when marking Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Towns celebrated his 100th career game by being simply overwhelming to the tune of 47 points and 18 rebounds, pretty much matching his season averages by the end of the first quarter. He had more points and rebounds at the half than the rest of his team combined. At first you may have looked sideways at him getting All-Star whistles on Melo and Kristaps Porzingis, including a couple fourth-quarter bailouts. But then you had to admit he looked like peak Shaq, bodying anyone he caught down low. And when roaming elsewhere, he variously looked like the entire current Clippers lineup — He took it into the lane like a seven-foot Point God, ran the floor like Blake Griffin, tore down boards like DeAndre, and, for good measure, ran effortlessly around baseline screens like he was J.J. fricking Reddick. Also, Fuck Paul Pierce and his mid-range game.
- Jeff Hornacek has shown a willingness to keep bench guys on the floor if they’re playing well, and tonight it was Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Marshall Plumlee, and Sasha Vujacic who got extended run and were at the center of the Knicks early fourth-quarter explosion. Hornacek extended some faith in Cheese, leaving him out there despite an inauspicious start where he shot an airball from three and was blocked by Cole Aldrich (who has the hops you might expect of a refrigerator on wheels, which is what Cole identified as in the most recent census). His faith was rewarded as the Lithuanian Longballer went 5-of-7 from then on — including hitting all four from range— en route to a season high 14 points in 20 minutes.
- Plumlee crashed into this game like a drunken Red Hulk on a rampage, yet he knocked into the right things often enough to stay on the floor for 19 minutes and earn a +11 plus/minus, while gathering his first NBA points and even an assist and a steal. One thing that Coach K didn’t teach him at Duke was proper fist-pumping technique (long a hole in the HOF coach’s repertoire), as Plumlee’s current form resembles an alligator in a straitjacket manically doing one-armed fly presses on the Chuck Norris total gym.
- Vujacic, like Plumdog, had mostly served as human cargo to this point in the season while being shipped to and fro from various arenas and hotels around the nation. Last night, he showed up with some nice play down the stretch while standing in for an injured Courtney Lee. Lee hurt his ankle on an assist in the second quarter to Willy Hernangomez (who played aiight but got abused by Towns like everyone else, and since Plumlee was wrecking shop, only received 8 minutes of playing time). The Machine may be called on some more next time around considering Lee’s uncertain status, and because Justin Holiday’s right shoulder still appears to be ailing him, based on his body language and 1-for-8 shooting performance. The health of Joakim Noah’s ankle (the reason for his DNP) could call for another slug of Plumdog 20/20. Just close your eyes and your nostrils and do it, do it.
- Kristaps Porzingis’ 29 and 8 went largely overshadowed by Towns’ domination. Although the two were not matched up that often, our top pick from last year acquitted himself pretty well when he was, considering no one could stop Towns last night. Meanwhile, Porzingod’s quietly impressive scoring came off jumpers kissing glass, a runner off glass, three balls, put-backs, post-ups – basically the usual dazzling array of sparkles you would expect in the company of a flying unicorn. He did have a couple of highlight blocks — one on Towns and an authoritative send-back that threw lime all over Shabazz Muhammad’s evening. He did continue the frustrating trend of biting hard on fakes (including inexplicably on Dieng from 15 feet), and gave a scare as he came up limping after coming down awkwardly as he was fouled with six minutes left, but he walked it off, hit both free throws, and later got a clutch put-back to put the Knicks up 2 with 36 ticks left. He also proved doubters wrong who say he got no ass, cuz he got four right there in the box score, right there under “ass.”
- Foul trouble limited Derrick Rose to 24 minutes, and a series of poor offensive choices and worse defense in the fourth quarter got him sent to the bench for the final four minutes. In his stead was Brandon Jennings, who held it down for 34 minutes, scoring 12 and (as Clyde stated at one point) ‘weaving and achieving’ his way to 7 assists. Jennings did turn the ball over four times and was his usual streaky self (5-14 FG) but he did sashay around with his usual bellyfire, and the ball once again moved better when he was in there.
- It’s kind of shocking how bad a Thibodeau-coached defense was in just about every way imaginable: in transition, pick and roll, getting out to the three-point line. It’s probably why the Knicks felt comfortable giving up on just about any run-out the Wolves had, because they were likely to get the points right back. So it’s probably good that the ‘Bockers get in their games against these guys now before Thibs gets a chance to turn their youth and potential into a formidable defensive front.
So these two teams meet again on Friday at MSG to wrap up the season series already. The Knicks really need to take advantage of this team in the friendly confines of the Garden. It would mark a swell beginning to the final month of 2016.