Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knicks 108, Magic 86 - Recap

Well now! Quite a turn around from the opening minutes where I found myself saying, "It's going to be one of those games." In the 1st quarter the Knicks offered little resistance to the Magic as Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu canned jumpers and finished drives to the lane while Dwight Howard just did what he does. After giving up 29 points in the opening quarter and trailing by as many as seven points, the Knicks took control.
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

A defensively stifling 2nd quarter accompanied by efficient offense is what turned the game around for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony was determined around the basket, either finishing drivess or getting fouled in the process. Steve Novak was especially explosive off the bench, hitting a good clip of his jumpers, including a 3-pointer to beat the first half buzzer.

The 3rd quarter featured some dazzling, and at times, just downright silly shooting by the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony opened it up by scoring eight straight points before Iman Shumpert got in the act sinking 3-pointers, and the rest of the team followed suit. At one point the Knicks led 86-49. Things then got a little sloppy and lax, but the Magic never really threatened to make a comeback. Aside from a brief reappearance from the starters (sans Melo) to clean things up, the Knicks basically cruised to a dominant win, pushing them to above .500 for the first time since early January!

Would you like to read some more? Jump!

That Was Great!
 - Carmelo Anthony had his best game in quite a long time. Orlando really lacks any wing defenders to slow down Melo, even a Melo with a cranky groin (which is the title of my upcoming children's health book). In the first half most of his scoring came off isolations in the post to midrange area, where he had a good deal of success beating opponents to the rim. In the explosive 3rd quarter, Carmelo got going off catch-and-shoots and made jumpers like we haven't seen him do probably all year. Besides for his 25 points on 9-15 shooting (2-5 from 3FG), Melo was unselfish and chose his isolations at appropriate times. H had a 4 nice assists, the best of which on a lovely leser pass during an isolation to Landry Fields cutting backdoor. His defense and rebounding (6 boards in total) were equally tenacious in his 26 minutes off the floor. The latter number is extra important because it allowed Melo (who rode a trainer's bike to stay loose when he was off the floor) to get rest his injury.

 - Likewise, this was probably Iman Shumpert's best game of his young career. Once again getting the start at the 2, Shumpert's jumpshot was unusually wet and his offensive game was extremely composed, albeit a little trigger-happy at times. His defense was pesky as usual as he drew a number of illegal screens and pushes on folks (looking at you, Quentin Richardson), while coming up with a steal and a few tipped passes as well. To go along with his 25 points (10-21 shooting, 4-10 3FG), Shump also registered 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Great work from iMan who had the crowd and Dan Shulman buzzing on a number of plays.

 - The Knicks allowed only 30 points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined. They probably could have held Orlando to like, 11 points in the 3rd quarter if not for J.J. Reddick going off for a brief stretch. A lot of it came on Orlando's over-passing, but the Knicks scrambled on switches and recoveries, and forced a lot of turnovers either stealing passes, drawing offensive fouls on the Magic, or forcing Dwight Howard into three-second violations. Even after allowing 27 points in the 4th quarter, the Knicks still only gave up 86 for the game, which is definitely impressive.

 - It feels wrong to not mention Steve Novak in this section. Novakaine came off the bench and promptly scored 5 points: one on an open 3-pointer, and the other on a pumpfake, pull-up jumper. His aforementioned buzzer-beater going into halftime was huge for the Knicks' momentum, and he actually hit another big, momentum-busting 3 in the second half to push the Knicks lead back to 23. He finished with 16 points on 6-11 shooting, 4-8 from behind the arc.

That Wasn't So Good
 - The only thing here that can really be pointed to is the Knicks' failure to build a huge lead and maintain it without giving the Magic hopes of coming back. After going up by 37 points, the Knicks allowed Orlando to get somewhat back into it by making 3-pointers and forcing the Knicks into poor offensive possessions. When Orlando got within 19 points, Mike Woodson was forced to put Baron Davis and Tyson Chandler back into the game, which was nearly fatal when Chandler was blocked by Glen Davis and sent tumbling into the cameramen. The problem isn't necessarily with giving up points during a blowout, but not being in control and forcing the coach to put the top guns back in when they should be resting on the bench.

 - Not bad, but Landry Fields is slowly losing a role on the team. Tonight in his 27 minutes he was a 0 in +/- while scoring 6 points on 3-6 shooting, grabbing 3 rebounds, and passing 2 assists. In a time when he'll have opportunities to contribute, Fields is really disappointing me. Likewise, it looks like reworking his jumper over the summer was the worst decision ever as he can't throw a rock into the ocean unless he's a few feet from it. And if you think that's bad, he's having an even harder time making jumpshots!

Odds and Ends
 - Baron Davis was pretty nice at the PG tonight. Once again filling in for Jeremy Lin, Davis cut down on his turnovers and bad shots and produced a nice 13-point, 7-rebound, 6-assist line. His 4-7 shooting from the field and two turnovers were good signs as well.

 - The Knicks as a team had just 13 turnovers.

 - Mike Bibby (who was utterly invisible tonight) did throw a pretty gnarly alley-oop to J.R. Smith who did a little 90-degree turn in the air and threw it with one hand. The only other notable thing about Bibby was that he got posted up by Glen Davis, who from afar I thought was Dwight Howard, and I got super disappointed by the fact that we wouldn't get to watch Bibby defend Dwight in the post.

 - Glen Davis, by the way, might be the worst player in the NBA. Even when he does something good.

 - Jeff Van Gundy didn't know that the little yellow dashes under the team names on the ESPN scoreboard represented the remaining timeouts. This led to a funny briefing of all of the aspect on the scoreboard for Jeff.

 - I didn't see it (yet), but evidently Jonah Ballow interviewed Kate Upton at halftime. You mean he chose to interview the two-time cover-girl of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions instead of Jeremy Piven, who was sporting a Hollywood hobo type look? Interesting.

The Knicks have off tomorrow, and Woodson has wisely decided to cancel practice to let guys rest. As it currently stands, the Knicks are: 2.5 games behind Boston for 7th place, 3.5 games behind Atlanta for 6th place, 4 games behind Indiana for 5th place, and 2.5 games behind Philadelphia for 4th place and the lead of the Atlantic Division. They play Atlanta on Friday. The push continues!

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