Melo: 39 points, 10 boards, and some newfound respect.

Knicks 113, Magic 106: Basketball Is Fun Again

Rather than a traditional recap, we’re going with bullet points tonight!  Aren’t you excited?  I know I am, until I see Shawne Williams guarding Dwight Howard.  That’s when I start to get bitter.  But on with the recap!

First Quarter

  • I may be a little distracted because The Hangover happens to be on HBO right now.  Although, to be fair, most of the Knicks would probably be pretty distracted by it too.
  • Mike D’Antoni is starting Shawne Williams: Interior Defender.  Dwight Howard should enjoy that.  Okay, turning the snark off now.
  • Watching Chris Duhon in pain is a massive conflict of interest for me as a Knicks fan.  You probably felt something similar.
  • Orlando with six turnovers in nine minutes as the Knicks have tied it up and gained a foothold in this game.  I can’t remember a team supposedly in contention (not that the Magic are really considered contenders at this point) that actually listed turnovers as its foremost bugaboo.  Good teams just shouldn’t have that problem.  More amazing is that Boston turns it over more often than Orlando in fewer possessions per game.
  • Clyde is presented with a bowl of Snickers bars for his birthday!  He handles it the way he handles every impromptu moment: a few moments of awkward, charisma-less smiling, followed by the switch flipping back on as Mr. Cool reemerges.
  • Breen rightly points out Anthony and Carter’s aggressive close-outs on missed Orlando threes.  Anthony in particular looks like he came to play tonight.
  • Billy Walker crashes the offensive boards and kicks out for a Toney three.  It’s no secret that the fringe rotation players collectively just aren’t very good, but you can’t say they aren’t competing for those minutes.
  • Carter with a block on Arenas to end the first quarter at 18-18.  Neither team is shooting well.  Defensively the Knicks are scrambling as usual, but they’re fighting hard and the Orlando hasn’t made them pay for their lapses.

Second Quarter

  • Jared Jeffries with the put-back jam!  From the Sentences I Didn’t Think I’d Write Section.
  • Arenas is 0-5 and looks like his favorite part of playing point guard is stylin’ and profilin’ while he holds up his fingers to signal the play.  He just held up two fingers and then immediately pulled up for a brick.  Make it 0-6.
  • Toney Douglas feeds Stoudemire for an open dunk.  Of the top five Knicks passes since the Carmelo trade, none of them has involved Chauncey Billups.
  • The return of Bullyball is so, so sweet.  And not just because it means no Roger Mason – you can Bully wants those minutes.
  • Anthony gives Turkoglu far too much room and Hedo burns him for three.  Those are the lazy mistakes this team can’t afford.
  • Brock Lesnar looks like Andrew Giuliani.
  • Dwight Howard seems pleased with himself after missing a free throw.  Like when Bobby Bonilla would ground into a double play and then saunter back to the dugout with that grin that says, “Well, at least I get to sit down.”
  • 48-44 at the half.  This is taking on much the same tone as the game five days ago – the Knicks appear comfortably in control, but can they put together a whole game like that?  Nelson’s absence seems to have cut the head off Orlando thus far.  Amar’e leads the Knicks with 13 points, and all five field goals have come at the basket.
  • The Hangover just ended, so I’ve switched over to Celtics-Pacers, one of the few games I can honestly root for the Celtics.  Cheering for a good team is at once a tease and, I hope, a taste of what we’ll all be doing for the next decade.  C’s by four after three quarters.

Third Quarter

  • Mike Gorman calls Boston “the schizophrenic Celtics” because they put up 33 in the first, 16 in the second, then 36 in the third.  Leaving aside that “schizophrenic” doesn’t quite mean what Mike thinks it means: Mike, I know schizophrenic, I root for schizophrenic, I’ve watched schizophrenic for no less and no more than 82 games a year for the last decade – these Celtics are not schizophrenic.
  • Dwight Howard scored four points on 0-2 FG in the first half.  I have to mention this even though he could still go off for 30 at any time.  Knicks have made very well-timed double teams thus far.  Howard misses a running hook in the lane to start the third; the next time down, he grabs an offensive rebound, puts it back with a dunk and a foul, and clanks the free throw.
  • Breen calls the Knicks “desperate for a win” as Anthony burns Turkoglu for an open layup.  Let’s wait to the fourth quarter to see how desperate they are.
  • Orlando is featuring Howard now, and he’s back at the line.  You’re not going to believe this, but he’s getting great position on Shawne Williams.  He’s 6-9 FT so far.
  • Shawne buries a trey as Orlando goes right back down to Howard, who puts the Knicks in the penalty at the 9:15 mark.  He makes both.  Uh oh.
  • Now Howard dishes out of the post as the Knicks get all confused in their rotations.  J-Rich makes them pay from three and the Knicks have relinquished the lead for the moment, 55-54.
  • Pacers leading by six with 4:30 to go.  An Indy win and a Knicks loss would put the Knicks just 2½ games ahead of the eighth seed.  I want no part of the Chicago Bulls.
  • Offensive foul on Howard as he backed down Shelden Williams.  The Knicks’ best bet right now is to hope he keeps elbowing people in the face.
  • Boston can’t get a rebound, then they start throwing the ball around like a little-league team and turn it over.  They’ve on their way to losing this one.  Of course they are.  The most mature team in the league, and the one night we’re pulling for them they turn into schoolgirls.
  • Carter with a nice feed to a cutting Shawne, and Earl Clark hacks him on the way up for our 40th foul of the evening.  This third quarter has been interminable.  I won’t write another word about it unless Jared Jeffries shoots one over the backboard.
  • Your scores from the third quarter: Orlando 29, Knicks 27; Melo 19, Howard 15; Fouls 42, My Patience 0.  Also, the Pacers beat the Celtics, and the 76ers are up 13 in Chicago.  I mean, come on.

Fourth Quarter

  • ESPN’s NBA Coast to Coast goes around the Hack Roundtable: first Tim Legler spouts off with the “Mike D’Antoni doesn’t focus on defense” line, which at this point is more tired than Chauncey’s legs after guarding Brandon Jennings.  Then it’s Chris Broussard’s turn, who tries out the old “they have no defensive concept” bit.  Hard-hitting stuff, Chris.  When will someone mention that they traded their three best defenders and their new point guard defends like a rusty gate?  Sure, they weren’t good defensively before, but anyone who watches this team knows the problem has gone from tolerable to crippling in the last month.  Not that I would expect anyone in the national media to have noticed this.
  • 84-84 with six minutes to go.  Billups brings it up and takes the most predictable pull-up three in the world, but even I didn’t foresee it hitting side-rim and bouncing away.  Then Richardson buries a three in transition, and Billups comes down and…buries the Marbury-patented answer three.  Mr. Big Shot!
  • Melo is dead-ass tonight.  He now has 34.  Knicks up 94-90 with three minutes to play and they look intense.  Now Shelden Williams steals an entry pass on its way to Howard, and Melo buries an impossible jumper over Turkoglu!  36 for Anthony and he has absolutely brought it.  If this is what we can expect in the playoffs, I might retire my sarcasm for the summer.
  • Now Shelden forces a jump-ball with Howard!  Dwight had great position once again and would’ve thrown it down.  Superlative effort tonight from Shelden.  Arenas hits his first field goal after the jump ball (1-9 FG, yikes).
  • Billups warms my heart by passing up a Big Shot and finding Stoudemire inside for the layup.  Finally.  Knicks by six, 1:20 to go.  Win or lose, one of their best efforts of the season and a great harbinger going forward.
  • Howard will go to the line under very dubious circumstances as Shelden fouls out.  Fantastic, inspired effort from him tonight; Howard got his points but had to work for them.  Knicks by four, Magic ball with 35 seconds left.
  • Arenas drills a three!  Magic down one.  Ugh.  Then Melo almost travels, but finds Douglas, and Howard is called for goaltending!  Knicks by three with 10 seconds left!
  • Annnnnnnnnnd Richardson nails a three to tie it.  God forbid we foul one time in that situation.  100-100, and one Knick will have a chance to be a hero.
  • Melo can’t hit an impossible shot in the lane and the put-back doesn’t quite go.  Overtime.  Because this post isn’t long enough, apparently.

Overtime

  • This overtime has been marked with defense and rebounding.  Encouraging stuff!
  • An incredible sequence of events: first Howard fouls out on a dubious loose ball foul, then draws a technical for throwing the ball away; then Anthony turns it over, and as Turkoglu is burying a three to tie the game, Richardson intentionally trips Anthony as he’s crossing half-court – offensive foul, no basket.  Now Turkoglu has fouled out, and Melo makes one of two to put the Knicks up four with 18 seconds left.
  • Knicks get a stop and Douglas makes one of two to put the Knicks up five.  In other news, Dwight Howard is grinning like an idiot.  I wrote previously that of all the superstars available, Howard makes the most sense on paper for the Knicks, but if he pulled a stunt like that during a tough overtime loss, that’s one scathing 800-word editorial times seven local papers.  I’m not sure he could handle it.
  • Billups buries a few more freebies and the Knicks win it, 113-106.  An incredible, exciting, momentum-building win for these Knicks going into a home game against New Jersey and three days off at home.  I hate this cliché, but it really is the kind of win that might singlehandedly generate some chemistry amongst this group.  Melo ended up with 39 and despite a few lapses in concentration seemed intent on backing up his “must-win” comment.  All in all, after a few tough weeks, it’s fun to be a fan again.

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