Brutally short-handed once again, having been thoroughly beaten by each of their opponents on this Western Conference swing, the Knicks went into Utah desperate for a win. With Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler missing another game, the Knicks were trying to avoid going 0-5 on a crucial road trip. Through big offensive efforts from Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith, and a collective defensive effort, aided by terrible execution from the Jazz and a heroic effort from Kurt Thomas, the Knicks salvaged a much needed win in order to retain their grip on first place in the Atlantic Division.
J.R. Smith – 31 minutes, 20 points, 5-13 FG, 9-10 FT, 5 rebounds, 4 TOs
Smith wasn’t all that efficient from the field, but he rebounded from a woeful game against the Clippers Sunday afternoon. Smith, surprisingly keenly, worked off the dribble to get into the lane and draw contact from the Jazz. His 9 free throws seemed to get him going as thereafter he cut down on some of the silly passes he’d made in the first quarter, and he continued to drive to the hoop. However, his biggest shot came late in the fourth quarter when he nailed a step-back jumper to put the Knicks up five.
Final Grade: B
Raymond Felton – 42 minutes, 19 points, 8-12 FG, 4 assists, 3 steals
Though Felton is still absolutely maddening to watch on defense as he has no clue how to navigate a pick or handle a switch, his efficient night on the other end of the floor was huge for the Knicks. A couple of times, Felton called his own number and worked off the bounce to slink his way to the hoop – one of which was a beautiful split out of a double team and a floater in the lane – or to pull up behind the arc when defenders went under the pick. He also worked some surprising pick-and-roll magic with Kurt Thomas to set up the big man for some easy baskets. Some iffy defense on Mo Williams at times, but the Knicks don’t win this game without Felton’s contributions.
Final Grade: A-
Chris Copeland – 31 minutes, 14 points, 6-15 FG, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Copeland got the start at power forward and immediately provided everything Knicks fans have clamored for on offense and everything else Mike Woodson was reluctant to play him for. Copeland still manages to drive to the cup like a drunken ballerina and score at odd angles, and at times, his go-to presence in the post and on face-ups opened up the Knicks’ defense. However, a number of these lovely moments were coupled with some “SMH” moments, too. One in particular where he attempted to lead the charge up the court in the final seconds of the third quarter, went straight into a double-team, lost the ball at halfcourt, and made no effort to get it back while Utah heaved a last-second shot (which luckily missed). Copeland is no doubt useful for this injury-bedeviled squad, but at times it’s easy to understand Woodson’s luke warm feelings towards giving the rookie minutes.
Final Grade: B-
Kenyon Martin – 21 minutes, 9 points, 4-6 FG, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
It’s pretty amazing how seamlessly Martin’s been able to fit in with this squad, especially considering the lack of training and practice time. He has nice presence in the pick-and-roll, can still finish around the basket, and he brings a tenacity on defense that, while not as efficient as Tyson Chandler’s, is a bit more hostile. I grow more fond of one of my former least favorite players with every surprisingly explosive blocked shot, slipped pick, and aggressive dunk.
Final Grade: B+
Iman Shumpert – 17 minutes, 8 points, 3-7 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Shump’s outside stroke appears to have returned and that’s a great thing for the Knicks. Though his playing time all but evaporated in the second half, in the opening two quarters, Shump drained two back-to-back corner 3s off beautiful ball movement and generally played a part in some sturdy perimeter defense that only gave up 44 points to the Jazz at halftime.
Final Grade: B-
Jason Kidd – 28 minutes, 7 points, 2-5 FG, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal
Kidd has looked far more comfortable coming off the bench lately, despite the still-high minutes he receives. His stroke looks more confident, he’s daring to dribble the ball around the perimeter and actually inside of the arc, too. However, Kidd’s best contributions of the night came on the defensive boards where, more often than reflected in the box score, he tipped out, secured, or stole extra possessions from Utah’s big men. As a Knicks fan, it’s strange to praise Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd in the same recap.
Final Grade: C+
Kurt Thomas – 27 minutes, 6 points, 3-5 FG, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks
Game ball, sir. A well earned game ball. Kurt Thomas, earlier facing the possible end of his season, provided us with a terrific potential swan song, all the while evoking memories of a young Kurt ballin’ on peach baskets with Dr. James Naismith. Thomas managed to almost entirely lock up Al Jefferson and deter some drivers while on offense, working some magic in the PnR, dishing to open teammates, and providing energy to a team desperately needing it. If Thomas does in fact have a season-ending injury, I’m glad that this was his last game, because truly, it was magnificent.
Final Grade: A
Pablo Prigioni – 20 minutes, 3 points, 1-3 FG, 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Prigioni got his first NBA start tonight and did most of the ball-handling in the first half. He didn’t play much after halftime, but with Kidd and Felton playing well, his services weren’t quite as needed. He did all of typical Prigs things: threw some spicy pocket passes, hit a three-pointer, snuck into the paint and stole some offensive rebounds. It’ll be curious to see if Woodson starts him again for Wednesday’s game.
Final Grade: C+
Steve Novak – 17 minutes, 4 points, 4-5 FT, 2 rebounds
Novak didn’t connect on any of his good looks from downtown, but he *did* steal a pass, dribble all the way down the court, and wait just long enough to be bailed out by a foul from a foolish Utah guard on a surely doomed fastbreak attempt. Cool.
Final Grade: C-
Marcus Camby – 7 minutes, 0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Camby oddly didn’t play after the first half. In his brief stint on the court, though, he looked good, providing the Knicks with some solid interior defense. What this means for future games, I have no idea, because Camby is probably the most unpredictable player on this roster.
The Knicks will fly back to New York for a Wednesday game, surely satisfied with a tough win in a desperate situation.