We’ve all been quick to get on the Knicks for their myriad bad losses this season, often reverting to hyperbole like “the worst loss of the season”, “this team is terrible” (nobody is saying it’s good, by the way) and “season over”. So, although the season isn’t going anywhere and they deserve flak when appropriate, it’s okay to look at last night’s game and accept the natural good feelings that it caused. The anti-climactic race for the 8th seed with Atlanta notwithstanding, the Knicks went on the road against a good team in a place that’s been tough for them and others in the league to win at, took a few punches, fought back, and gutted their way to a victory. They remain just two games back in the loss column of the Hawks. Some thoughts:
- There were a few points in this game where it felt like it was going to end like so much of this forgettable season has. Namely, Steph Curry’s 3-pointer with 2:43 left that tied the game at 81, and then Klay Thompson’s 3 with just over a minute left, which brought the Warriors back to within one at 84-83. So often this season, the Knicks have allowed big shots like that to snowball, opening the door for them to eventually fumble the game away. But those two 3s by Golden State’s vaunted back court ended up being the final points they scored in the game. The Knicks did just enough on defense and fought just enough for loose balls and rebounds to hold on. And with 5 seconds left, Shannon Brown made Mike Woodson look like a defensive genius, finally!
- Carmelo Anthony had a really rough 4th quarter, shooting just 1-of-6. But that one field goal was a massive one, coming just prior to Thompson’s 3-pointer, extending the Knick lead to four. While Melo did sit a lot of the first half due to foul trouble, it’s still possible that fatigue had a hand in his poor late-game shooting, as these extra minutes all season have built up. Regardless, Melo’s bad 4th quarter production remains an issue.
- The game really turned in the 2nd quarter, probably the Knicks’ best quarter of the season. They outscored the Warriors 34-12, exploding for 22 of those points over the final five minutes prior to the break. J.R. Smith led the way by, yes, aggressively taking the ball to the lane to supplement his outside shooting. As usual, J.R. morphed into a completely different player by doing so. Why or how J.R. does not recognize this himself remains one of life’s truly confounding mysteries. At halftime, Smith had 19 points and was 8-of-11 from the field. He struggled mightily in the second half and scored just two points, but he was one of the main people responsible for staking the Knicks’ to their big lead, which is quite simply what won them the game.
- Also right in the middle of the Knicks’ best spurt of the game (as usual) was Pablo Prigioni. Along with J.R. Smith’s incessant driving, Pablo did was he usually does, spurring on ball movement, being a pest on the defensive end, and knocking down his few three point attempts. In this case, he made two, raising his season average behind the arc to 46.5%.
- Let’s give a little credit to Raymond Felton as well, who actually played some pretty disruptive defense on Curry late in the game, Once possession in particular, Felton played very solid ball denial, and forced the Warriors to go elsewhere (although I believe that possession ended up in a Klay Thomspon 3? I could be wrong on this). Regardless, much like the Knicks as a whole, Felton is a guy we’re quick to jump all over (and like the Knicks, deservedly so at times). We must be fair and point out when he does something that helps the Knicks win…although the rest of his game last night was pretty poor. Behind Prgioni and Smith, he was the Knicks least-effective floor general for most of the night.
- It’d be unfair not to point out the performance of Amar’e Stoudemire, who nabbed his 4th double double of the season. According to NBA.com, the Knicks are 4-0 in those games. Stoudemire was pretty consistent throughout the game, however his biggest impact came from the middle-to-late stages of the 3rd quarter on, as Golden State was making its run and cutting into the Knicks’ decent halftime lead. Stoudemire fought for a few key, tough rebounds on both ends, keeping a few key possessions alive late in the 3rd quarter, and his 4 points in the fourth quarter were crucial enough — a monster put back dunk about halfway through the quarter, and two clutch free throws in the waning minutes. A legitimately gritty, productive performance from The Apostrophe.
- On to Utah, folks.