Ok then! The Knicks started off the 2014 calendar year with their banner win of the season (if there can be such a thing when you’re 10-21) by knocking off the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of a three-game Texas swing. There were some excellent performances throughout for the Knicks, which is a rare occurrence, so let’s get to it:
- We have to begin with Iman Shumpert, who had his best performance of the season, by a mile, and one of the best of his young career. Firstly, Mike Woodson smartly put Shumpert on Tony Parker, and the Frenchman had a very modest 12 points and 7 assists on just 5-of-13 shooting. But obviously, we’re all over the moon with Shumpert this morning because of him finally busting out of his slump to the tune of a career-best 27 points. Shumpert made 10-of-13 overall including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. He made the two biggest buckets of the game, a long 3 from the left corner with just over 30 seconds left to put the Knicks up 3, and then an incredible one-handed putback on the Knicks’ next possession, which ended up putting the Knicks ahead for good. It’s unfair to ask why Shumpert can’t always do this, but when you see Shumpert put together a game like this, it’s fair to wonder how on earth he combined for just 26 points in the Knicks’ six previous games. We can’t expect Shumpert to play like this every night, but you watch last night and then realize this dude averages 8 points a game for his career, and it’s a bit head-scratching.
- Shumpert’s incredible night is the only reason we’re not leading with Carmelo Anthony, who played wonderfully in his return from injury. He grabbed 12 boards (five more than anyone else in the entire game) and passed beautifully out of double teams and on pick-and-rolls – a nifty little p-and-r on an out of bounds play to Amare Stoudemire comes to mind – and we haven’t touched on the shooting. Melo made half his shots, including a few big ones in the third quarter as the Knicks kept jabbing the Spurs to keep them at a distance. He also knocked down five free throws and some down the stretch that helped ice it. It’s nice to have him back.
- Marco Belinelli: What the….I mean, come on…. How the…Seriously, bro?
- It wasn’t quite like the Protest Game in Boston, but J.R. Smith played 28 minutes and shot just five times. But he affected the game positively in almost every other way for the Knicks; he helped move the ball all game, and one of his three assists was on Shumpert’s momentus late 3-ball. Also, I think he deserves massive credit for hauling in the defensive rebound after Belinelli missed with the Knicks up two. I don’t know how Smith wrestled that ball into his grasp, and haven’t the foggiest idea as to how he stayed in bounds to then call timeout. A clutch play that deserves attention.
- San Antonio averages just over 21 3-point attempts per game. They jacked up 34 last night. Part of that is because the Knicks showed basically no interest in guarding anyone out on the perimeter, especially early on; as the Spurs nailed nine 3-pointers in the first half. In the third quarter, they kind of just started missing open ones. That helped, a lot.
- Toure Murry had his second effective game in a row. To me, there’s little doubt that Murry can be a nice spark off the bench defensively. Offensively, he has some decent scoring ability but it’s clear as day that he’s not a natural point guard. When Woodson brought him back in in the fourth quarter, he struggled with some high pressure from the Spurs’ defense. On two straight possessions, he bricked a bad shot and nearly turned it over on the next. You absolutely live with the growing pains for a young player, but he has a long, long way to go offensively as a point guard.
- Amare Stoudemire looked pretty good offensively. His jumper was working a bit and he was effective at the rim, whether finishing or drawing contact to get to the line. But he was a game-low minus-15 and grabbed just 3 rebounds in his 23 minutes. The sample size still isn’t that big, but by just about every metric out there the Knicks are better when Amar’e is on the bench as opposed to when he’s on the floor. It’s been that way for a while now, unfortunately.
- More fun with plus-minus: Andrea Bargnani played 22 minutes and was a game-high plus-19.
- The Knicks have won three out of the last four meetings between them and the Spurs, and have won two straight in San Antonio. Forget Ray Allen’s Game 6 3-pointer; I bet THIS keeps Pop up at night.