We’re running out of ways to describe it. The New York Knicks were right there. More than right there. They were winning, up five with 2:30 to go. The Memphis Grizzlies came back, as they were expected to. Down by one with a minute to play, Tim Hardaway Jr., huge all night, sank a three-pointer to put the Knicks up two. Mike Miller came back on the other end, and as if the Knicks drew it up for themselves, got a wide open three at the top of the key and buried it.
That was all it took. The Knicks missed on back-to-back open threes to take the lead and later, tie it. Despite a poor shooting game, a hot second half had put the Knicks right back into it. Behind a more efficient Carmelo Anthony, explosive shooting from Hardaway Jr., Pablo Prigioni’s direction of the offense, the Knicks surged back from a double-digit halftime deficit to take the lead for most of the fourth quarter. But they couldn’t hold on.
There is no more time for moral victories, for getting the next one. The Knicks slid into 11th place in the East tonight, three games out of the playoffs and not looking any better than they did months ago. This one hurt.
Carmelo Anthony – 42 minutes, 22 points, 8-22 FG, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, +5
After starting 1-8 from the field, ‘Melo enjoyed a better second half, going 5-12 for 13 points. Down the stretch, he deferred to teammates, setting up both Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith for open looks instead of forcing the shot. ‘Melo’s forever in a tough spot — particularly on the late Smith miss — because if it doesn’t result in a basket, he looks bad for passing up a look or forcing a tough shot. He shook his head as he walked off the court (and then kinda checked out a girl).
Final Grade: B
Iman Shumpert – 20 minutes, 6 points, 3-9 FG, 2 rebounds, +2
Is there anyone who’d take Shumpert over Hardaway Jr. at this point in the season? That was a debate just months ago. After another listless night in which Shump relied (unsuccessfully) on the three-ball and produced little elsewhere, expect to see his name floating around in every trade rumor, even if it doesn’t exactly have GMs drooling.
Final Grade: D+
Tyson Chandler – 26 minutes, 9 points, 4-5 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 TOs, 2 blocks, -2
Still firmly entrenched in Camp Trade Tyson Chandler for a Pick, but when Tyson runs around in the pick-and-roll, finishes at the rim, defends Zach Randolph well enough, and creates a bunch of second opportunities — it’s nice to still have him around.
Final Grade: B
Pablo Prigioni – 30 minutes, 7 points, 3-5 FG, 5 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 2 TOs, +2
Captained the offense for the entire fourth quarter and did a damn good job of it. That above stat line is about as boastful of numbers as you’ll ever see from Pablo. It was a near perfect performance until his game-tying three-point attempt rimmed in, out, in, and out in the Grizzlies paws. So close. What the hell he was thinking leaving Mike Miller open for that three in the final minute to double Zach Randolph… I don’t know. It keeps him from getting an A in my book, though.
Final Grade: B+
Raymond Felton – 29 minutes, 6 points, 2-7 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, +1
Sat out pretty much the entire fourth quarter and didn’t look delighted with it. Felton struggled on offense, and while he played his usual brand of turnstile defense, did successfully defend some pick-and-rolls. Still, when 37-year old Pablo is finishing games, it’s time for a point guard upgrade.
Final Grade: C
J.R. Smith – 35 minutes, 4 points, 2-8 FG, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, -8
The masked man struggled with his new facial gear in his first game back. Besides for floating around the court somewhat aimlessly, he missed about as good of a look from the corner from ‘Melo as a player can hope for down the stretch. He has to wear the face mask for 3-4 weeks, so he best get used to it.
Final Grade: C-
Amar’e Stoudemire – 24 minutes, 12 points, 4-11 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 2 TOs, -5
The break didn’t seem to do much good for STAT. Rushed a bunch of looks, forced others, and got rejected and stopped on even more. When he’s not effective on offense, he’s not offering much else.
Final Grade: D
Jeremy Tyler – 10 minutes, 4 points, 2-3 FG, 1 block, 2 TOs, -7
Tyler’s even somewhat empty stat line looks better than he did tonight. When he caught the ball, it didn’t really leave his hands, and it usually just resulted in a lot of stumbling and fumbling around. Not his brightest minutes of the season.
Final Grade: D
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 24 minutes, 23 minutes, 7-15 FG, 4-9 3FG, 1 rebound, -13
How the heck Hardaway Jr. ended up with a -13, I don’t know, but I don’t believe it was anything personal. He still has no concept of defense, really, but on nights like this, his offense catapulted the Knicks into the lead. In the second half, Timmy carried over his hot streak from All-Star Weekend, smoking treys on the catch, nailing pull-up jumpers, and swooping to the hoop for a tough finish. The Knicks will probably trade him now.
Final Grade: B+
The Knicks take on the New Orleans Pelicans tomorrow night.