We’ve got playoff basketball to look forward to, and I’m looking forward to this game more than any in quite a while. Our boys are in the dance! Will they celebrate in style, or will they play like they’d rather be celebrating? (Post-game note: they mixed in a little of both.) Let’s find out with some bullets.
- The Knicks went two for three on the Raptors’ game-time decisions: Bargnani in, Barbosa and Calderon out. Also, I’m watching the TSN feed for this game; the commentators are the barbershop duo of Matt Devlin and the NBA’s Bing Crosby, Jack Armstrong. All in all, a very enjoyable tandem, especially relative to the assclownery on the mics around this league.
- Amir Johnson needed 18 seconds to commit his first foul. James Johnson, the ball’s in your court.
- Chauncey Billups runs a sweet pick and roll with Jared Jeffries, who’s getting the start tonight with Toronto lacking a legitimate post presence. Jeffries did actually finish that play with a layup, if that last sentence was unclear – off the backboard, into the basket, the whole kit and caboodle. Knicks out to a quick 7-0 lead, timeout Raptors.
- Carmelo with a couple of threes, 13-0 Knicks. Toronto starts the game 0-9 FG. Jack Armstrong: “Am I watching Butler right now?” Amir Johnson finally throws one down and Toronto has its first points at the 7:57 mark.
- Ed Davis enters and ball-fakes Jeffries into the rafters before laying in an easy deuce. Two possessions later Jeffries is late to help and picks up a foul.
- DeMar DeRozan is shooting 91% FT since the All-Star break. Which goes nicely with his 10% 3PT for the year. Is there a record for largest disparity in those two categories?
- Amir Johnson has his second foul at the 4:02 mark, with no rebuttal from James Johnson. James must be embarrassed right now. Unfortunately Amar’e is already out of the game, so he won’t be able to take advantage of Amir’s absence.
- Knicks score 5 quick points in transition to go up 39-25, and they’ve shot 6-8 3PT so far. Douglas makes it 6-9, and your score after one is 39-26. Melo had 11 in the quarter and his shot looked pure, and Toney Douglas came off the bench for a quick eight points in five minutes. Bayless with seven for the Raptors and his penetration has been their best offense so far.
- Bargnani has had some open looks but can’t buy a bucket from midrange. Meanwhile the Knicks use a quick 7-0 run to open up a 20-point lead – timeout Raptors. This is a thorough domination; Walker, Carter and the Williams twins have run roughshod over a team that may or may not want to be here.
- The TSN announcer reads a promo for “Khloe and Lamar,” premiering soon on E!, as the color guy cackles in delight in the background. I like that whoever wrote that bumper said the couple is “famously in love.”
- Shawne Williams beats the Raptors down court off an inbounds pass from the Knicks’ baseline. Then Toney buries a three (the team is now 9-12 3PT), and it’s 54-30 with 8:36 to go in the second quarter. Toronto’s having trouble hitting the rim right now.
- Anthony Carter with the steal, and Douglas goes behind the back to Walker who finishes and 1 in transition. 57-30. Ouch.
- Bayless picks up his third foul, but Jay Triano keeps his only healthy point guard in the game with six minutes yet to play in the half.
- The Knicks are on pace to score 163 points.
- Melo for three, then Billups for three, then Melo for three “from Jimmer Fredette territory,” says Jack Armstrong. 74-47 and this is straight ugly.
- Matt Devlin just started singing “Up on Cripple Creek.” I think that means they’ve checked out. And while we’re here, check out some of their finest work.
- DeRozan banks one in from halfcourt to put some sugar on that pig’s ass of a half for the Raptors. Your score is 78-54. Melo with 19 including five threes, and he’s been unconscious all night. New York is 12-16 from downtown, and 66% overall. Toronto on pace for 108 points but with seven turnovers and the Knicks pushing an incredible pace you can’t say the defense hasn’t been there. The only problems have been Bayless’ penetration, to be expected against Billups, and the in-between game of DeRozan, who has created and converted some nifty leaners in the 8-15 foot range. Toronto also has a usually unforgivable 11 offensive rebounds. If the Knicks keep up this lead, I’m hopeful the starters would sit the fourth quarter in anticipation of tomorrow night in Philly, a game which has serious seeding implications.
- Landry Fields starts the second-half scoring off with a three. Why not? Also, Andrea Bargnani appears to have stayed in the locker room.
- Bayless prances past Billups into the lane to set up DeRozan for a rare three. At this point I’m just looking for reasons to rip on Billups, which isn’t to say that I’m having trouble finding them.
- TSN shows footage of the Van Gundy-Mourning fight, as if I could be any more excited for playoff basketball. Billups promptly throws one out of bounds to disturb my reverie.
- Toney Douglas runs the pick and roll with Amar’e for the easy stuff. He’s slowly proving he can be trusted with the ball in his hands, a great sign for the playoffs.
- After three quarters, the Knicks lead it 99-82. Not much happening right now as I believe both teams are packing their bags and getting ready to ship out. In other news, the Celtics lead the Sixers by 12 with ten minutes to play. If both results hold, Boston would move into a tie with Miami for the second seed, and the Knicks would have a chance to move within a half game of the 76ers with a win in Philly tomorrow night.
- Hey, an Alexis Ajinca sighting! Have we not been entertained enough? What did we do to deserve this?
- Armstrong: “You know what this tells me about the Knicks? They can do it! When they put their minds to it, they can do it.” There has to be a reason I like Jack so much…and his Wikipedia reveals he’s from Brooklyn and went to Fordham. I think I wish Jack had stuck around; he’s been thoroughly entertaining tonight.
- Toney with an and 1 followed by another sweet P&R with Amar’e for an and 1 of his own! We’re sure Chauncey Billups is the better player, right? Are we absolutely sure? And are we basing that on anything that’s happened after 2007?
- Ajinca just attempted a three. It went about as well as you would expect from watching his draft highlight. He adds an offensive foul for posterity. I could not be enjoying the Quarter of Ajinca more. It’s not possible.
- Derrick Brown is collecting some garbage time and picks up a foul on Ajinca, who naturally has two fouls in three minutes.
- Ajinca buries one from 19 feet. So he’s 7’2”, a shot-blocking freak, runs the floor like a French gazelle, and he can’t get on the floor for the Raptors? I’m not surprised the Knicks didn’t pursue him – after all, this is the team that had no use for Corey Brewer – but I can’t believe the Raptors were the one team that had a spot for this guy.
- Bayless blows by Douglas to the bucket, Ajinca hits two freebies, and this is somehow a ten-point game with 6:30 to go. If you don’t have that familiar pit in your stomach, it’s because the Knicks just clinched a playoff spot. Just know that it should be there.
- TSN’s trivia question: Who scored the most points in his Knicks debut since 1964-65? The answer: Keith Van Horn. Just shoot me in the face.
- Matt Devlin: “The Knicks are pretty good against teams that are above .500, but they do not take care of business against the lesser teams.” Armstrong: “Well, they play loose.” Isn’t it nice when opposing announcers know what they’re talking about?
- I believe Amar’e Stoudemire has played the entire fourth quarter (four minutes to go). This was not what we had in mind.
- Douglas buries another three as Billups wonders if he has another Ty Lawson on his hands. If so, Mr. Big Shot can kiss that $14.2M goodbye.
- Another three for Toney. Chauncey just started an account with monster.com.
Your final score from Rucker Park: Knicks 131, Toronto Preparatory School for the Arts 118. It was playground stuff all night for both teams; the Knicks grabbed the game by the balls early before taking their foot off the gas late, and the gulf in class won it for them in the end. Douglas is your player of the game with 28 points in 25 minutes and, perhaps most importantly, no turnovers. The Knicks got whatever they wanted against a Raptors defense that’s as bad as the national media thinks the Knicks defense is; they tallied 31 assists on 45 field goals, and shot an amazing 15-27 3PT. Disturbing signs for the ‘Bockers: 18 offensive rebounds allowed and a -12 overall in rebounding differential despite the Raptors’ missing far more shots; Bayless and later DeRozan got to the rim absolutely at will, the latter finishing with 36; and the Knicks’ energy players who ran the Raps off the floor in the first half ended up making a game out of things late on.
All in all, though, a rather dominant showing from a team that hasn’t shown a killer instinct against the dregs of the league. On to Philadelphia now, and hopefully that much closer to the sixth seed.