The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Knicks by a score of 98-93 in a tale of two halves for New York.
The Knicks weren’t able to overcome what might have been their worst half of basketball this season, as they dropped their third straight in their first game back from the All-Star break. Despite being outplayed through three periods, the unit of Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway Jr, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler led a frantic fourth quarter comeback that fell short in the end. Smith barely caught rim on a wide open look in the final minute, and after two ensuing Mike Conley free throws, Prigioni had yet another open look rim in-and-out to seal their fate. The team failed to do enough defensively down the stretch, blowing a five-point lead in the final few minutes.
Hardaway Jr. led the team in scoring with 23 points, including 14 in the fourth, when he tried his best to put the team on his back. His heroics included a four-point play, clutch threes, and a beautiful scoop layup that will be featured on highlight reels everywhere. Prigioni also helped fuel the run, playing by far his most productive ball of the season, and finishing with seven points, five rebounds, 10 assists, and one huge steal. Melo added in 22 points and 11 rebounds, but in general, the Knicks offense was inefficient and out of sync for most of the night.
The first half is what ultimately did the Knicks in. Both teams looked to still be on vacation to start, but eventually the Grizzlies hit their groove. The Knicks didn’t begin to click until well into the third. Through the first 24 minutes of play, New York managed to score just 37 points, and their three best offensive players, Melo, J.R., and Hardaway Jr, combined for 3-15 shooting from the field. Anthony didn’t make a field goal until there was 6:04 left in the second quarter. It took Raymond Felton 22 minutes to register his first and only assist. Iman Shumpert returned from a shoulder injury, but was clearly stilled hampered by it. He finished with six points on 3-9 shooting, including 0-5 from three.
Although the Knicks initial surge was inspired by Felton, he played poorly for the majority of the night, and had #IdTradeFeltonFor trending on Twitter for much of the first half. Let’s just say that New Yorkers can be cruelly creative. Fans wanted Felton gone for everything from more snow to a pair of Starburys, and everything in between.
The Charlotte Bobcats watch has eventually begun. MJ’s team took care of business, gaining another game on the Knicks, and pushing their grasp on the eight-seed up to 3.5 games. You can’t stick a fork in New York yet, but I think it’s safe to say that this group of players isn’t going to get it done. Changes are a coming.
The Knicks will get a chance to redeem themselves in New Orleans tomorrow night. Let’s hope that Melo shoots as well against the Pelicans as he did against the Western Conference in that same city over the weekend.