Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Knicks 90, Raptors 87 - Recap

Perhaps what is most surprising about the Jeremy Lin revolution (RevoLintion? Nah? Okay) is how he's inspired the Knicks grit in close games. We've now seen two games in a row where the Knicks played like cow poop, but didn't quit. Cow poop is manure and manure helps things grow, and the Knicks manure-style play through three quarters seems to inspire them to go 110% in the 4th quarter. Two games in a row the Knicks have pulled out breath-taking wins because of their 4th quarter execution.

Behind some terrific defense from Iman Shumpert, and a final burst of energy and badassness from Jeremy Lin, the Knicks won the game. Take the jump if you like notes or agriculture analogies!

Through three quraters of this game, the Raptors had their way with the Knicks. Jose Calderon visibly out-played Jeremy Lin, torching him for jumpers off of screens or getting into the paint and setting up teammates. Guys like Leandro Barbosa and DeMar DeRozan also had success in penetrating and getting their own shots. Linas Kleiza and James Johnson were just playing well and being annoying.

On offense, the Raptors trapped Jeremy Lin and roughed him up, which seemed to throw him off his game. A few times Lin found pockets of air and slipped through to get some layups, but Toronto's perimeter defense was impressive. Likewise, the jumpers just weren't falling for anybody.

Until the 4th quarter, the Knicks lack of offense couldn't get them any closer than seven or eight points. But then the Knicks went all Alcatraz on the Raptors due in large part to Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler. The rest of the cow poop game became fertilizer.

That Was Great!
 - Before we even get to Jeremy Lin, we have to acknowledge the Knicks' 4th quarter defense as a whole. Mike D'Antoni put Iman Shumpert on Jose Calderon, and Shump got into him. He pressed him from halfcourt and hounded all around the perimeter until he gave the ball up. Bill Walker did his part too, keeping DeMar DeRozan out of the lane, and forcing some turnovers. Tyson Chandler locked down the middle and had two key blocks in the final two minutes. Even Amar'e Stoudemire pushed some drivers away and grabbed some rebounds. They key play was Iman Shumpert's halfcourt steal on Calderon that resulted in an open dunk and turned a five point Raptors lead into a three point lead.
  • The Knicks held the Raptors to 12 4th quarter points and forced 9 turnovers if I'm not mistaken.

 - Jeremy Lin was actually not too great tonight, despite what the boxscore says (I'm looking at those 8 turnovers). However, credit the kid for once again competing the entire time he was on the court. As mentioned before, when Lin was able to get space, he drove the lane and generally finished well. The reason for his mention in this section is his ice cold 4th quarter play. Lin drove to the basket with intensity (Lintensity!) and drew fouls or finished at the basket. Down three, he pump-faked Kleiza out of his shoes on the perimiter, drove to the basket, barrelled into Amir Johnson, tossed up the floater and nailed it for the and-1. He completed the 3-point play. On the Knicks next possession (after a HUGE offensive rebound by Chandler on a Shumpert miss), Lin held the ball at halfcourt, brought the clock down to two seconds and launched the victory 3-pointer, both stunning and exploding the packed Toronto arena. What a guy.
  • 27 points on 9-20 shooting, with 11 assists for Lin. What was also nice is we saw him drive the lane a few times and set up Amar'e for easy baskets.

That Could Be Improved
 - Amar'e Stoudemire looked rusty and less pumped-up than usual, and understandably so. But I can't help thinking that even after ten days of not playing basketball, I could still hit some of the open mid-range jumpers that Stat was missing. He heated up in the 4th quarter and had some nice isolation moves and finishes around the basket. 21 points is nice, but on 8-22 shooting. Likewise, he has to set a REAL pick for Lin. He can't keep slipping it because guys are trapping Jeremy on the perimeter.

 - The Knicks nearly lost this game on missed opportunities. Before climbing all the way back, Bill Walker and Steve Novak both missed open 3's. Jeremy Lin and Tyson Chandler missed a combined 5 FTs in the 4th quarter. Yikes.

Odds and Ends
 - The Raptors color commentator is super annoying and has a weird Boston/Long Island accent. Don't know how he ended up in Toronto: "Look at Bahbosah dair. Drivin' tha lane, blows roight by Novak to tha rim, no help defense at awl!"

 - Mike D'Antoni with the quote of the game: "I'm just glad it went like this so we can calm the Linsanity down."

This is a quicker recap because I'm now running late to class. The Knicks play the Kings tonight, and it should be a good test against a team on a roll on the second night of a back-to-back. Preview later. Go Knicks

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