Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Knicks 99, Hawks 82 - Recap

Safe to say that the final score of this one is even a little bit closer than what the final score indicates. In the 1st quarter the Knicks got off and running and fully took advantage of the Hawks' lack of an interior defender, and on defense, they suffocated the Hawks into committing 25 turnovers.

New York wasn't entirely polished themselves as they coughed the ball up in some flabbergasting ways, but none of it really mattered. The offensive execution was crisp and extra pass-y tonight and the Knicks rode their way to 17-17.

Jump!

In the first quarter, it looked like the Hawks might give the Knicks a challenge as they were actually up 14-12, but New York would have none of it. All of the Knicks made a consistent effort to make the extra pass tonight, and especially in the 1st quarter, there was a lot of rim-attacking. Carmelo Anthony, whose jumpshot was awry once again, re-shifted his focus into getting into the paint and had much more success there. Amar'e Stoudemire was off too, but his teammates (pleasantly) made a concerted effort to keep his head up and get him some easy looks.

Guys like Landry Fields, Jeremy Lin, and Tyson Chandler were relentless in their drives, and Steve Novak once again provided some floor-spreading with his downtown accuracy (though some attempts were quite ugly). Overall, the Knicks were never threatened by a short-handed, lowly Hawks team.

That Was Great!
 - As mentioned, the ball movement in this one was quite excellent. At times, the Knicks actually over-passed, which is part because special, zippy little passes make for highlight plays, but also because I think the guys on this team legitimately want to see their teammates succeed and score. Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis combined for 15 total assists (9 and 6, respectively), and Carmelo Anthony got in the action too, including one beautiful touch pass on the break to hit an open Landry Fields for the dunk. The ball movement and moreover, the unselfishness is exciting and encouraging to see. When guys like J.R. Smith, Melo, and even Amar'e start hitting their jumpshots... look out!

 - Although it was a more quiet night, Jeremy Lin probably deserves this bullet point. Lin didn't have too many highlight plays in his 32 minutes of action, but he had the offense humming along nicely. Lin's drives are becoming even more efficient as he's add the jump-stop and pump-fake into his repertoire, which makes his at-the-rim finishes all the easier. In particular, his little step-back floater is becoming dangerous. 17 points on 11 shots, 9 assists, 2 steals, and 4 turnovers for Jeremy.

 - The bench unit is still a bit discombobulated, but there is progress being made. The guards are learning more and more where Novak likes the ball and he's making folks pay from downtown. 17 more points on 5-10 3FG for Novak, who did get a little trigger happy at times, but had a nice performance overall. Baron Davis threw two dazzling alley-oops to J.R. Smith (both of which will be all over the highlights), and racked up 6 assists in 14 minutes. Smith is still trying to find the range, but he snagged 5 steals tonight and continues to surprise me with his smooth passing, so that's just dandy too. Forreal though - in a month's time, a bench of Davis, Smith, Shumpert, Novak, Harrellson, and Jeffries could cause some real problems for teams.

That Wasn't So Good
 - The turnovers! Lin is still shaky when he gets into the lane, and for some reason, particularly in the 3rd quarter. It could be fatigue, but things get loosy goosey for him sometimes, and not in the good way. Baron Davis (who we must keep in mind hasn't played since last April) was also pretty sloppy with the ball. He's still got the crossover, but when he got into the lane, he didn't have the explosion to do much and so he usually ended up jumping and then losing the ball. Tyson Chandler also had two turnovers off made-basket inbounds plays which was ridiculous and pretty unacceptable.

 - Amar'e continues to brick his jumpshots and lack explosion in the paint. Boy, I wish I knew for sure what was wrong, but it's pretty upsetting to see Stoudemire miss attempts he was automatic with last season. Though to his credit, he did have 10 rebounds, and a blocked shot, and he was 3-8. One more make and we'd be happy with 50% shooting night for him. However, he got some easy looks (a pass from Baron on a pick-and-roll comes to mind), and just couldn't elevate and finish like we're used to seeing. Get better soon, Amar'e.

Odds and Ends
 - Clyde noted that Anthony looked nervous during the beginning of the game as he turned down some good looks and just missed others. When he passed too, they were "over-zealous" and usually off-target. Anthony calmed down and eventually got into the groove, but he shouldn't be thinking so much. The Knicks need the normal Carmelo Anthony, just a more conscious, less isolation-y Carmelo Anthony.

 - Jared Jeffries almost THREW ONE DOWN on Willie Green. But it missed. Never change, Jared <3

 - Baron Davis threw a behind the back pass, while on one knee, recovering a fumbled ball. It hit Jeffries in the hip, who then missed the layup, but tipped it back in. I'm sure Baron wanted to slap Jared in the face for blowing a beautiful assist. Spero Dedes, who filled in for Mike Breen (also the name of my Quiet Riot cover band), couldn't get enough of the play.

That's pretty much it. Not to hate on Spero, but this blowout would have been way more fun with Mike Breen because he and Clyde could have talked about elephants and shark bait and other hilarious Clyde things.

But more importantly, the Knicks are back to .500 and are on a plane taking their talents to South Beach for tomorrow's game vs. the Heat. Sleep well, my angels! Jeremy and Landry, don't stay up too late! No late night snacks for you either, J.R. Smith! What's that? Ha, okay, I trust you, guys! Good luck!

 A win tomorrow would probably send me to the loony bin. Go Knicks!

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