Stephen Curry didn’t feel like missing any shots last night, and usually when a great shooter like him decides to do that, the opposition is in some serious trouble. Last night, the Knicks were that opposition and indeed they were in danger. Just when it looked like the Knicks might run away with the game early on, Curry went nuts in the second quarter and from then on the Knicks and Warriors were entrenched in a tight shootout (if such a thing exists?). But on the final day of February the Knicks woke up winners. Somehow.
Well here’s how. Had Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith picked a different game – any other game, really – to put on the exact performances they did, the conversation today would be about them. Rightfully so it’s not; when you do something that only Michael, Kobe and LeBron have done at The Garden, you’ve earned that. But those three Knicks all had among their best games of the season, and every inch of them were necessary.
It started early on with Chandler. When Mike Breen noted that Chandler had picked up his ninth rebound and there was something like 7:47 left on the clock in the first quarter, I swore I was hearing him wrong. But then about 12 seconds later, Chandler grabbed another one and Breen said “That’s 10 rebounds now!” and that was that. Chandler must have woke up ear-to-ear on Wednesday with the news that Warriors All-Star and rebounder supreme David Lee was suspended for the night, because he played like he literally wanted to grab every rebound ever. He finished with 28. (Also, Wilt Chamberlain once grabbed 55 in one game in the pre-shot clock era. Okay then.)
Aside from the boards, Chandler also finished well on offense, made free throws, and did his usual excellent job of roaming and hedging-then recovering-then helping or rebounding on defense. While the Knicks’ run through Carmelo Anthony, as they should, Tyson Chandler makes a case to be the best player on this team. It’s not that you’d ever build your franchise around him, but for what he provides this team, he is simply irreplaceable. Last night was an example of why (and still, Steph Curry made like 400 shots).
Anthony had a period in the game where he threw up some horrific bricks. I think he got caught up in Curry’s show and was trying to match him, which I can’t really blame him for. But aside from a few chucks over double teams, Melo proved why he’s a legitimate No. 1 guy. He’s done that a few times this season, honestly, but against the Warriors he was able to both get to the line a lot and set up his teammates, finishing with eight assists. These are two facets that do exist in Melo’s game, we just don’t see them as consistently as we’d like to. All that, AND he scored 35 points. Steph Curry was off the charts last night, but Anthony was pretty darn good himself.
And then there’s J.R. Smith, who kept canning huge threes when the Knicks needed them. He made 6-of-11 from behind the arc, which is freakin’ GOOD, except Steph Curry ruined the ability to appreciate anything last night. There was plenty of bad shooting last night from J.R., especially early on. But you simply live with that in hopes that he comes around and knocks big shots down late in the game. Often times that’s happened this year, and while it’s not the most reliable way to win games, the Knicks can’t exactly change who they are at this point. Smith is a huge part of this team, and if the Knicks make a deep run in the playoffs it will be because J.R. Smith has made some huge shots down the stretch of games. I don’t see the Knicks beating anyone in the postseason if Smith doesn’t give them his customary point output off the bench.
Either way last night ended, it would have been a memorable night, but from our standpoint it’s a lot more memorable because we can look back on it with an ultimately positive memory. We’ll never forget Reggie Miller or the Double-Nickel, but we wish we can. The reason we want to remember last night’s legendary effort by Curry is because of Anthony, Chandler and Smith, and their excellent, yet understandably lost in the shuffle performances.