If the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets keep taking their games down to the wire, it seems a real rivalry will soon ensue. For the second time in as many meetings, the Knicks and Nets took the game into the waning seconds for a decision to be made. In the first meeting in November, the Knicks missed their chance to win the game in regulation and went to overtime where the Nets ran away with the victory. Last night, it was the Nets who spoiled their final opportunities to tie the game, allowing the Knicks to emerge as victors.
To open the game, the Knicks played like nothing less than hot garbage. Missed layups and rushed jumpers led to sloppy, scrambling defensive rotations and mismatches that the Nets exploited to score easy baskets. Brooklyn rushed out to a 26-9 lead in the early goings, sending Knicks fans into a state of panic.
However, the Knicks fought back. The defense, while still far from solid for most of the night, steadied somewhat and the Knicks stopped switching so much and giving the Nets easy mismatches. On offense, simply said, the brilliance of Carmelo Anthony, with some big shots from J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd, carried the Knicks throughout the game. In the fourth quarter, the two teams exchanged blows, responding to one another with timely basket after timely basket. With less than a minute left, Tyson Chandler tapped out an offensive rebound, which the Knicks recovered, allowing them to set up a play where the ball swung around the perimeter and found Jason Kidd. Kidd knocked down the eventual game-winning three-pointer and drew the foul on Jerry Stackhouse (though he did not complete the four-point play).
On the other end, the Nets missed two chances at tying the game with three-pointers, and the Knicks ran away with what felt like a stolen game. A little analysis on each player with some report cards:
Carmelo Anthony – 44 minutes, 45 points, 15-24 FG, 5-7 3FG, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Carmelo Anthony’s offensive explosions have become so frequent that this 45-point, game-changing, game-saving outburst almost doesn’t carry the weight it should. As he’s done pretty much all season, Anthony mixed up his looks all night with a splendid array of three-pointers that snapped the net, some face-up, pull-up jumpers off the dribble, and some reckless takes to the basket, that usually dropped, resulted in a tip-in, or some free throws for ‘Melo. Anthony wanted this one bad. His usual competitive, Cheshire Cat grin was replaced with Kobe-like grit teeth and a determination to score the ball, regardless of who stood in his way.
Tonight was also just one of those nights for ‘Melo, though. Some downright silly turn-around, fade-away jumpers over tight defense sank, some ludicrous pull-up threes found the bottom of the net – it was all cash for Anthony. There were some wafts of the dreaded hero ball spliced in with some great offense – a 5-on-4 possession late in the game, which Anthony used to draw a double team, back down his defenders, and take a turn-around jumper from the high post comes to mind – but overall, Anthony was just fantastic. Snaps for ‘Melo, too, for holding his ground on some much bigger folks (Kris Humphries) and quicker folks (Deron Williams) on switches on defense. Though the box score doesn’t reflect, Anthony was active on defense and around the basket.
Any concerns that ‘Melo will struggle playing against small forwards? In two games against the Nets, guarded largely by Gerald Wallace, Anthony is averaging 40 points on 53% shooting.
Final Grade: A+
Jason Kidd – 37 minutes, 18 points, 6-8 3FG, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal
Jason Kidd is the magic man. Jason Kidd is the hero. Jason Kidd continually proves me wrong about the doubts I had when the Knicks signed him this summer. Jason Kidd is the best. Six huge threes sprinkled throughout the game, none bigger than his game-winner with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Kidd, as he is wont to do, threw in some dirty trickery with a sly little leg-kick that drew a foul on Jerry Stackhouse, but Kidd missed the free throw, and I don’t think the play should’ve warranted an offensive foul anyway. It did make the win feel a little dirtier, though.
Six needed rebounds against an aggressive rebounding team. Six assists, and of course, an undeniably positive effect on the pace and control of the offense. Is it fair to say that the Knicks get blown out without ‘Melo, but don’t win the game without Jason Kidd? I think it is. A big gold star and big hug to Jason for sealing up the win.
Final Grade: A
J.R. Smith – 32 minutes, 16 points, 7-15 FG, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
J.R. Smith, we found out after the game, played through back spasms, probably as a result of his oft-floor-bound ways. Or perhaps it was the should’ve-been blocking foul he committed on Gerald Wallace late in the game, when the two went colliding into one another in the back-court. Not entirely sure what did it, but it seemed to actually have a positive effect on Smith who has struggled from the field in recent games. Smith still peppered in some wily, ill-advised, step-back jumpers off the dribble, but there were a fair share of good, clean looks mixed in that Smith knocked down with confidence. Smith seemed more-or-less overwhelmed trying to stop either of the Nets’ All-Star back-court options, but an effort was certainly there.
As the third of only three players to score in double-figures for the Knicks, J.R. picked a good time to come out of his slump. Now let’s get the back healed up, eh, J.R.
Final Grade: B
Tyson Chandler – 31 minutes, 5 points, 2-5 FG, 7 rebounds, 1 steal
Tyson Chandler found himself unusually caught up in the Knicks’ chaotic defensive schemes, and as one would imagine, if the team’s defensive anchor is out of sorts, the whole defense is, too. Even without Brook Lopez, the Nets’ big men, mainly Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans, gave Chandler some trouble, muscling him aside or out-hustling him for rebounds. In the early goings, Chandler also kind of just let Blatche roam freely for baby jumpers and easy baskets around the rim. Two early fouls relegated Chandler to the bench for much of the first half.
In the second half, Chandler straightened himself out to an extent, but still was not his usual impactful self. Against an aggressive, solid rebounding team like the Nets, 7 boards isn’t very much (though he did receive help from others, and the Knicks were only out-rebounded by two). Chandler’s struggles on offense lasted all night, as the Nets’ surprisingly effective collapsing D cut off his usual routes to the rim, and generally stifled him when he tried to finish around the basket. Likewise, if Chandler catches the ball out of dunking range, then he is mostly useless if he can’t draw the foul. Last night, that just didn’t happen.
The best note for Chandler: his last offensive rebound, tip-out off of a miss, gave the Knicks an extra possession that led to Jason Kidd’s game-winner.
Final Grade: C+
Raymond Felton – 31 minutes, 8 points, 3-12 FG, 7 assists, 7 TOs
Felton (in my mind) didn’t seem as bad as his stat line suggests, but it wasn’t a pretty night. His seven turnovers were aggravating in that they came in just silly fashion, like a skip pass from the top of the key that hit Gerald Wallace in the chest. Likewise, his shot selection was pretty good in this one (unlike his last appearance in Brooklyn), but some of those layups and open looks just wouldn’t drop. There was a nice spot-up three in transition, and a step-back jumper over Reggie Evans, though; those were nice.
It is a little concerning that in big games against good point guard, Felton has a tendency to poop the bed.
Final Grade: C
Rasheed Wallace – 14 minutes, 8 points, 3-7 FG, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
‘Sheed came off the bench and provided some dutiful minutes for a struggling squad that needed his floor-stretching, interior defense, and rebounding. Two deep three pointers off pick-and-pops and a presence around the basket was exactly what the Knicks needed in their comeback second quarter. Given his productivity, it was a little surprising to see him only get 14 minutes, but nonetheless, Wallace was a pleasant surprise. He was +7 in his time on the floor.
Finals Grade: B-
Ronnie Brewer – 12 minutes, o points, 0-4 FG, 1 assist, 1 steal
Brewer struggled as soon as the game opened and he struggled in the little time he saw afterwards. Perhaps something else ails Ronnie, but against the Nets, he was downright putrid, missing his open shots the Nets granted him, and generally failing to contain whoever he was assigned. Using +/- in a single game can be misleading, but this is not the case for Brewer’s -14 in his limited action last night.
Final Grade: C-
Steve Novak – 21 minute, 0-1 FG, 3 rebounds
Novak was more-or-less invisible in his time on the floor. I do remember being generally pleased with his rebounding and defensive efforts, though. The Nets never really granted much room to him on the perimeter, and the Knicks didn’t do much in the way of trying to get him open looks.
Final Grade: C
Pablo Prigioni – 9 minutes, 0-1 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Everybody’s favorite Argentine Knick hardly saw much time tonight, as Woodson favored Jason Kidd and Ray Felton over Pablo. Prigioni was also mostly silent in his limited action, but was part of a kooky three-point-guard lineup that Woodson experimented with, and it proved to be successful in the second quarter.
Final Grade: C
James White: 6 minutes, 1 rebound
James White came in, perhaps in an attempt to tighten up the screws on the Knicks’ sloppy defense. However, all he really did was lose track of MarShon Brooks, who torched him on a few drives and pull-up jumpers.
Final Grade: Incomplete
The Knicks won a really tight game on the road (though the Barclays crowd seemed more pro-Knicks this time around), and they should be proud of it. They still sit atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-5. Next up: the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.