Now THAT is how you tie a series up. After a disappointing Game 1, in which the New York Knicks admitted to being out-hustled and out-performed, they came back with an impressive, near wire-to-wire victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Led by Carmelo Anthony’s 32 points, the Knicks found a significantly better offensive rhythm in this one, using more diverse sets and getting away from their heavy isolation tendencies. Indiana had their moments where they scored with ease and locked up the Knicks, but New York fought back with a huge 30-2 run from the end of the third quarter to midway through the fourth quarter. The Knicks forced turnovers all game long with intense traps on ball-handlers and later forced the Pacers into arrhythmic jumpers during the second half rally. York’s 33-13 fourth quarter put them in total control of the game, and they were able to rest their usual rotation players and ride out the double-digit victory.
The series goes to Indiana now, all tied up at 1-1. Here’s a look at the individual performances:
Carmelo Anthony – 35 minutes, 32 points, 13-26 FG, 2-5 3FG, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, +20
As Chris Herring pointed out on Twitter, ‘Melo was still mired in something of a shooting slump before a Frank Vogel timeout in the late third quartergave Anthony a chance to drink Mike’s Secret Stuff. Thereafter, Anthony went 6-8 from the field, taking it to the basket for a yam in David West’s face, knocking down mid-range jumpers, and finally, hitting two of those ever-evasive “three-pointers.” Overall, Anthony’s approach was more disciplined and vintage ‘Melo (meaning the ‘Melo of, like, three weeks ago). His defense was less physical, but smarter on David West, and for the most part, when shifted to the perimeter, Anthony made some solid rotations and well-timed traps. Still worried about the shoulder, which clearly caused him pain at some points, but three days rest between games oughta help it somewhat.
Final Grade: B+
Iman Shumpert – 29 minutes, 15 points, 7-11 FG, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, +5
Mmmmmm. Blowing the Pacers out in the fourth quarter only sweetens that delightful jam Shump treated us to. Everything about it – the distance he had to run to get there, how far he had to reach to cock it back, the force he threw it down with. Oh man. Shumpert continues to be the Knicks’ best option at two-guard/ small forward, and when he’s hitting open threes, scoring off the dribble, working in the pick-and-roll in limited amounts, and pestering opposing offenses, there are very few Knicks who deserve playing time over him. Shot selection can still be a problem, as is his tendency to get lost on backdoor cuts and screens, but right now, Shumpert has been essential to the things new York has done right.
Final Grade: A
Raymond Felton – 27 minutes, 14 points, 5-9 FG, 2-2 3FG, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 TO, -2
Felton continues to attack any open space he can find on offense. His assists are way down, likely because he’s assuming much less of a play-making role than a scoring role, but he’s doing the latter quite efficiently. No matter the range, really, Felton is hitting, especially around the basket, off curl plays to the free throw line extended, and from downtown. His defense on Indiana’s guards has been (mostly) sturdy, too. It’d be even more magnificent if he could make Indiana pay for sagging off pick-and-rolls by hitting that mid-range pull-up jumper, but we can’t have everything. He got a nice rest in the fourth quarter as Pablo Prigioni took total control of the reins.
Final Grade: B
Pablo Prigioni – 21 minutes, 10 points, 4-4 FG, 2-2 3FG, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 0 turnovers, +23
After a somewhat quiet start, Prigioni had his biggest moments during the Knicks’ 30-2 run in the second half. As mentioned, he took Felton’s place as the conductor of the Knicks’ offense, and while Carmelo Anthony will surely receive the most credit for bursting for 16 of those points, Prigioni made some terrific plays. Whether it was gathering rebounds, hitting ‘Melo for a three in transition, canning a three-pointer and a runner of his own, or dishing from the three-point line to Chandler on a gorgeous alley-oop, Pablo got the train rollin’. Let us not forget his own noteworthy harassment of Indiana’s guards during the run, too. It seems he’s gained Woodson’s trust – finally – and it couldn’t be more deserved.
Final Grade: A
Kenyon Martin – 18 minutes, 10 points, 5-6 FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks, +16
Strange how Martin’s efficiency has fluctuated from high at the onset of the Celtics series, to low in that same series, to high, once again in this Indiana series. Martin has mostly held his own defending Indiana’s big men, and what’s stranger, he’s been the best Knick at finishing over and around them. If he can consistently hit a midrange jumper or two, and finish a play in the paint, he’ll continue to be valuable on offense. Just one small complaint on the other end: block shots a little less hard and corral them to yourself, please?
Final Grade: B
Chandler came away even with Hibbert in this one. After being out-played in Game 1, Tyson looked more active on the boards (despite being out-rebounded, he put a body on Hibbert), deterred some drives, and severely limited Hibbert’s offense. Chandler still needs to flat-out win that matchup each night for the Knicks’ chances in the series to look really good, but nights like tonight are a good start. Also, Chandler did a nice job finishing dunks.
Final Grade: B-
J.R. Smith – 30 minutes, 8 points, 3-15 FG, 1-7 3FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 3 TOs, 1 block, +27
Kind of weird that Smith registered the highest +/- of any Knick, but hence why that stat can be misleading in a single game. For the game, the Knicks shot 49.4% FG, 33.3% 3FG, and had seven turnovers. Without Smith, those numbers would have been 55.4% FG and 39.3% 3FG, and their turnovers would’ve been nearly halved. Of course, that isn’t totally fair, but it goes to show that Smith has hurt the Knicks on offense. Credit, though, to J.R. for finding other ways to be effective. He played aggressive, feisty defense, rebounded well, and moved the ball better later in the game.
Final Grade: C-
Quentin Richardson – 5 minutes, 6 points, 2-3 3FG, 1 rebound
Q-Rich hopped off the bench late in the game and launched up some threes, two of which sank to cap the absurdity of the Knicks’ late run.
Final Grade: B-
James White – 5 minutes, 2 points, 1-2 FG, 2 rebounds
White also joined the bench bros who got to run around like kids in a classroom once the teacher leaves. He tipped in a missed shot.
Final Grade: C+
Jason Kidd – 24 minutes, 0 points, 0-3 FG, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 TOs, +20
Despite his complete inability to put the ball through that iron cylinder, Kidd had probably his best game of the playoffs in this one. He came at Indiana’s guards and big men with smart traps, frazzling them with his Venus flytrap hands, and forcing turnovers. He’s mightily non-threatening on offense, but still has the ability to whip around some assists. To cap the third quarter, he dove out-of-bounds to save the ball under the Knicks’ basket, and placed it right in Chandler’s hands for an easy dunk. That felt like a huge play at the time.
Final Grade: C+
Chris Copeland – 11 minutes, 0 points, 0-4 FG, 1 steal
Cope got a little too quick-triggered in launching some threes on pick-and-pop opportunities, but it’s forgivable; the Knicks need him to be aggressive if he’s getting minutes. If Amar’e Stoudemire does indeed return soon, then Copeland probably won’t see minutes beyond garbage time anymore. However, if he does still see court, I’m personally interested in seeing a possible ‘Melo-Copeland-Chandler frontcourt to put a bigger body on West, reduce Anthony’s physical beating, and still spread the floor.
Final Grade: C-
Steve Novak – 5 minutes, 0 points, 0-1 FG
Missed his only attempt in garbage time. Healthy or not, it’s hard to imagine Novak getting minutes in this series. Sorry, Steve.
The Knicks will take on the Pacers Saturday in Indiana.
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter: @WScottDavis