Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nuggets 119, Knicks 114 (2OT) - Recap

This game was both a mixture of (good) things we've hardly seen this season and (bad) things we've seen all too much of. The short-handed Nuggets, missing Arron Afflalo and Rudy Fernandez, managed to rally and pounce on the Knicks with some luck, help from the officials, and help from the Knicks' ever-switching defense.

This game we saw the Knicks move the ball around and hit shots. We saw the bench come alive, mainly in the 2nd quarter. We saw the Garden crowd do their damndest to lecture Melo when he had the ball on offense. We saw the Knicks finish the game in their same Aerosmith style that has ultimately led them to some other losses this season. Take the jump for more.

This game had a lot of meat on its bones, so I'm going to jump right to the notes:

 - A smarter person than I could probably write a book on how Carmelo Anthony fit the "tragic hero" role this game. We all know the story of Carmelo forcing his way to the Knicks, the Knicks' management giving up too many pieces to the Nuggets, the Nuggets playing much better since the trade, etc. etc. Coming into the game, Melo had been the target of some heated criticism, particularly after a 5-22 shooting performance in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. His wrist and ankle are all messed up and stuff, but his mindless chucking was beginning to wear on Knicks fans. Well, he started the game in the same fashion. Whereas the rest of the Knicks were moving the ball around and moving themselves, Melo was dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot, miss, much to the dismay of the crowd who booed him after nearly every miss.. At one point he was 3-17. This next bit deserves another bullet.
  • Then, when the Nuggets seemed to be pulling away in the final minutes, Melo started attacking the basket and rang up six points in a row to keep the Knicks within one. He then hit a fadeaway jumper while double teamed on a broken isolation to play to tie the game up with just over a second left. In the first OT, Melo continued to attack and hit impossible jumpers and he kept the Knicks in it to force a second OT. However, then Melo cooled off and he refused to pass the ball and eventually, the Knicks fell due to a lack of any offensive gameplan.
 - Landry Fields is getting his mojo back and I love it. Last night, Fields was hustlin' and bustlin' in the open floor, converting some nice lay-ups, an and-1, and making some very nice dishes to teammates. In the halfcourt, he knocked down some jumpers and made some very Landry-esque backdoor cuts for easy finishes. 8-14 shooting, 18 points, 7 assists and 2 steals for the Landry man. Over his last three games he's averaging 15 ppg, shooting 55% FG, 3.7 rpg, 4.7 apg and 1.7 spg.

 - Iman Shumpert ran a little hot and cold, but also seemed to be looking to get his confidence back. Also notable is that Shump seems to be getting the whole point guard thing down, as he's had averaging 6 assists per game in the last two contests. His jumper is a little shaken, but 7-16 shooting for 18 points ain't bad and his defense continues to be splendid. I'm convinced Iman will one day make All NBA Defensive Team; he's really that good.

 - Oh, and Shump and Landry are my favorite backcourt duo, particularly on a fast break.

 - Amar'e Stoudemire didn't have a very Amar'e Stoudemire-like game, but 12 points on 4-9 shooting with 11 rebounds, 2 steals and a block is actually pretty nice. Turnovers continue to be a problem for Stat and likewise he was invisible in the 4th quarter and overtimes, but that's more on Carmelo and D'Antoni to get him involved. Stoudemire was actually somewhat competent on defense, corralling rebounds, staying with his man (for the most part) and generally having active hands.

 - When Tyson Chandler fouled out in the first overtime, I knew it would spell trouble if the game went to a second over time. And it did. Knicks couldn't get rebounds or timely stops after he left.

 - Bill Walker and Toney Douglas were the sources of energy in the 2nd quarter as Bill Walker went 5-6 from the field, 3-4 from beyond the arc, and Toney Douglas hit a couple of 3s. Both were pretty silent thereafter.

 - The three plays that (sort of) doomed the Knicks, all in the second OT:
  1. Al Harrington tried going for an iso and tripped and lost the ball. Andre Miller retrieved it about 32 feet from the basket, with two seconds left on the shot clock. He flung the ball and sank the 3-pointer which tied up the game.
  2. Landry Fields caught the ball at the top of the key after Carmelo gave it up, and drove the lane. He sort of did a little runner/lay-up about 3 feet from the basket and Andre Miller slid in and took the charge. On replay, Fields went about 85% vertical, 15% forward and while there was some contact, Miller totally flopped.
  3. Amar'e Stoudemire switched onto Ty Lawson, who drove the basket, drew Carmelo Anthony's help by the left block, and kicked it out to an open Al Harrington who sank the open 3-pointer to put the Nuggets up by 4.
 - It's sort of poetic how badly the former Knicks Harrington and Gallinari burned this current Knicks team. 24 and 37 points, respectively. Or maybe I'm just a sick puppy.

I'll leave ya'll on this note. This loss hurt pretty badly, but it was much closer and much more of an effort than we'd seen from the Knicks on this current 6-game losing streak. Last year, the Knicks started 3-8, with the 8th loss coming at the hands of the Nuggets in a very close game in Denver. It was almost a good game for the Knicks because before that, they were playing absolutely terribly. After that game, they went on to win 13 of their next 14 games.

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