Sunday, February 19, 2012

Knicks 104, Mavericks 97 - Recap

Wow, what a game. Short-handed, following a loss to the Hornets, the Knicks could have very well surrendered to a very good team riding a win streak. But instead, the Knicks that we saw prevail during their 7-game win streak came out and went punch-for-punch with the Dallas Mavericks and evened their record back up to .500

The Knicks crucially dominated the 1st and 4th quarters and despite runs by the Dallas Mavericks, were able to withstand every blow. Jeremy Lin dazzled like he did against the Lakers, and the Knicks got some supreme help off the bench from Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, who made his Knicks debut.

Jump for more!

The Mavericks' defense of Jeremy Lin was probably the toughest we'd seen. They aggressively trapped, crowded, and bullied Lin on pick-and-rolls, but Lin calmly dribbled or passed out of them (except for the times he turned it over). On those plays, the Knicks usually made the extra pass and some nice outside shooting and some pretty dribble drives (mainly from Fields in the first half) helped keep the offense from stagnating.

Of course, the Mavericks weren't going to go down easily. Dirk Nowitzki torched the Knicks in the 3rd quarter when it seemed like the wheels would come tumbling off the whole mechanism. The Knicks became slow-footed, didn't communicate on rotations, and got down-right sloppy with the ball on offense. But once again, they withstood the punches and used a late-quarter flurry to get back within the game. In the 4th quarter, some huge 3s and some big time steals and lapses by the Mavs helped the Knicks seal the game.

That Was Great!
 - Jeremy Lin, you wild, beautiful thing, you! Lin's first quarter, and half for that matter, was among the best we'd seen from him. He had one turnover, but otherwise handled the Mavs' suffocating trapping like a champ. As I had been hoping for, Lin took a few jumpers early on, which then opened up his dribble game. He had some beautiful feeds to Amar'e at the basket as well. Perhaps his best first half basket came on a crossover drive to the hoop and then a high-arching floater over Dirk Nowitzki to beat the 1st quarter buzzer.
  • In the second half, Lin's dribble got shaky and loose, and his slippery hands played a big part in the Mavericks' run. At one point, Dallas went up by 12, and the Knicks could not play anything resembling smooth offense. However, Lin helped spark the Knicks by drawing back-to-back and-1s on incredibly athletic drives to the hoop. His steal and dunk at the end of the 3rd quarter brought the Knicks within three. In the 4th quarter, Lin helped get Steve Novak rolling by dishing to him on open 3s, and then when the time came, he nailed two heartbreaking 3s in the grills of Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, both of which ignited the crowd and team. 28 points, 11-20 shooting, 3-6 3FG, 14 assists, 4 rebounds, 5 steals, and 7 turnovers for Linsanity.
 - Steve Novak's 4th quarter brilliance was as important an aspect as any. Novakaine got rolling on the first possession of the quarter on the aforementioned kick-out 3 from Lin. He then hit a pull-up jumper off the dribble, a deep elbow 3 on an assist from Lin, and another corner 3 on an offensive rebound and kick-out from Stoudemire. After his corner 3 from Stat (which nearly blew the roof off of MSG), he then did the Aaron Rodgers belt move which was hilarious and endearing.

 - J.R. Smith's debut wasn't "great", but he provided a needed spark to the team. When he entered the game, he promptly his a step back 3, an open 3, and a ridiculous step back 3 over Lamar Odom's out-stretch arm. He cooled off significantly after that, but having somebody who's a threat to score and can create off the dribble really helped the Knicks, especially when Jeremy Lin got stuck in some Dallas defenders' traps. What was really cool was to see him make an effort to make the extra pass on a few plays, and to be genuinely hyped when Lin hit one of his big 3-pointers in the 4th. Despite flying from China over the weekend and not practicing with the team at all, there was already some chemistry and affection between the Knicks and Smith.

That Wasn't So Good
 - In the 1st and 3rd quarters, Mike D'Antoni tried going with an odd mismatch by putting Iman Shumpert on Dirk. I think the point was to get some mismatches for Shumpert on the offensive end, or create some confusion as the Mavericks tried to send someone other than Dirk to guard him. It worked once in the Knicks' favor, but otherwise Dirk torched Shump and threw him out of rhythm early on by sending him to the bench with two quick fouls. It probably would have just been wiser to immediately throw Jeffries or Chandler on Dirk from the onset.

 - Amar'e's probably still a little shaken up from the loss of his brother, but he just doesn't look right. The jumper wasn't falling, like, at all, and despite a few nice drives, Stoudemire lacked explosion on a few plays where he caught the ball right at the basket. Perhaps he's still recovering from his back injury (which he's admitted to) or from a heavy heart, but let's hope it goes away soon. We won't even discuss his abysmal defense tonight.

 - So, Lin's turnovers.... Granted, about 99% of the Knicks' possessions go through Lin, so he's bound to turn it over, but when he gets on a turnover ramble, it gets ugly. His dribble gets shaky and his ball protection is non-existent. At times, Lin got trapped on the perimeter and kind of forced the issue too much. In those situations, I'd rather he give up the ball quickly rather than try to speed his way out of the trap. But yeah, 6 of those TOs came in the second half.

Odds and Ends
 - To my eye (though others have differed), the Knicks closed out pretty poorly on the the Mavs shooters. I didn't put this in the 'Bad' section because I might just be too critical, but they lost Dirk on a few pull-up jumpers in transition, and Terry bailed the Knicks out by missing a few. Likewise, Lin tended to over-help his teammates off of Jason Kidd, who hit a couple of corner treys.

 - Hubie Brown calling a game is just the best.

 - It's gotten to the point where I'm fine with shooting on the pick-and-pop or on kick-outs, but please, please don't try and create off the dribble for yourself anymore, Jared!

 - J.R. Smith has the weirdest little shave in his hair and if you saw the game you know exactly what I'm talking about.

 - Jeremy Lin played nearly 46 minutes tonight, so with a game tomorrow, I expect to see Mike Bibby get some more playing time or maybe even Baron Davis!

Well, that was an afternoon delight, huh? The Knicks are now 16-16 with a game tomorrow against New Jersey, Wednesday against the Hawks, and Thursday against the Heat. Winning two of the next 3, would put them above .500 heading into the break, so that would be pretty nice! Go Knicks!

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