Give credit to the writers, directors, and actors of The New York Knicks: though the ending is predictable, they always find new ways to get there. Tonight, in Episode 57, “vs. Dallas Mavericks,” Season 68, it looked as if all hope was lost at the outset of the game. In some quasi-non-linear story-telling, it seemed as though the ending of the game was foreshadowed in the first few minutes. The New York Knicks turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter. Though they only trailed by a few points, we had to wonder: “Is this game going to come down to just a few possessions?”
The Knicks battled back, intensely, to keep it close throughout. Though they didn’t both playing on one half of the court, they used another insane shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony, plus some help from J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler, to make this an offensive showdown with the Mavs. When the Knicks went down eight in the final two minutes, it seemed certain that the game was over. But a quick bucket from Raymond Felton, a three-point play of sheer perseverance from Tyson Chandler, a three-pointer from Anthony — all within 40 seconds of time — tied up the game.
But then, with a chance to win it, the Knicks held the ball too long, Anthony got stopped, dished it off to Smith with three seconds to shoot, and they got called for a 24-second violation. On their last possession. Tied. The Knicks didn’t even off a shot. They had 21 turnovers for the game. And it would come down to one possession. Here’s how it played out:
The Dirk Nowitzki game-winner. Here’s a look at the individual performances:
Carmelo Anthony – 42 minutes, 44 points, 14-29 FG, 7-12 3FG, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 TOs, +2
Turned a chilly start into a red-hot shooting display in the first half, finishing with 22 points while playing nearly all 24 minutes. He didn’t really settle down from there. Though he got trigger-happy from beyond the arc (he literally launched three straight three-pointers in one possession until he made one), he still ended up shooting 48% overall, 58% from three. His defense was lackadaisical until that final possession on Dirk, which ‘Melo guarded well, but it just didn’t matter. He’s averaging over 40 points per game over his last four games, and the Knicks 1-3 in that stretch. We’ll miss you, Carmelo Anthony.
Final Grade: B+
Amar’e Stoudemire – 20 minutes, 9 points, 3-5 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 TOs, -8
Inserting him in the starting lineup between Chandler and Anthony went as predicted: terribly. Stoudemire didn’t once again any offensive rhythm or cohesion with his teammates, and his defense remained laughably bad. That was pretty much it.
Final Grade: D+
Tyson Chandler – 36 minutes, 12 points, 5-5 FG, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 TOs, -14
Despite a pretty stat line, Chandler was having a pretty forgettable outing until the final few minutes. His effort was lacking in guarding the pick-and-roll as both Samuel Dalembert and Brendan Wright slipped to the rim for easy dunks, and Chandler barely tried to stop any Dallas guard darting to the rim. In the last few minutes, though, he flipped the switch to blocking shots, finishing an and-one layup, and forcing a steal on a trap well beyond the arc. But, given the outcome, you have to look back at those squandered pick-and-roll coverages and four turnovers….
Final Grade: C+
Raymond Felton – 34 minutes, 8 points, 3-4 FG, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 TOs, -7
A mostly quiet night from Ray, who actually got to finish the game in this one. He helped set a beautiful trap on Monta Ellis to force the aforementioned turnover, and he he also scored that quick layup to cut the lead from six to eight in the final 1:30. Still, the Knicks need a point guard to run a play on that final possession that ended in a shot clock violation. Felton was in the opposite corner from Anthony, shying from the play.
Final Grade: B-
Pablo Prigioni – 29 minutes, 8 points, 3-5 FG, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, -2
Prigioni was strangely aggressive shooting the ball (a good thing), and to my eye, defended Dallas’s point guards better than anyone else on the Knicks. He’s starting to take Felton’s place as Chandler’s alley-oop companion in the pick-and-roll.
Final Grade: B-
J.R. Smith – 35 minutes, 15 points, 7-16 FG, 1-6 3FG, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 TOs, +4
What started as both a hot and efficient outing for Smith slowly disintegrated as time went on. J.R. checked into the game and immediately began searching for open teammates both off of the drive and along the perimeter. After a knocking down a shot or two, Smith also got the pull-up and step-back jumpers going. But late, he couldn’t find the range, as has been the case nearly all season.
Final Grade: B+
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 31 minutes, 10 points, 4-10 FG, 2 rebounds, +6
Hardaway Jr., for all of his tremendous athleticism and ability to get hot quickly, is still learning about “The Moment.” When to fire the three-pointer as soon as he’s open, when to take the momentum shot, etc. In the second or third quarter, with momentum going the Knicks’ way, sure — a heat-check is OK in limited doses. Misfiring on a three early in the shot clock late in the game, though (granted, it was an open look from the corner) can hurt. It’s tough to be mad at him for it (and I’m not), but it’s something he’ll need to learn with experience, especially in a game that comes down to one possession.
Final Grade: C
Cole Aldrich – 8 minutes, 2 points, 1-1 FG, 3 rebounds, +12
With an injury-plagued team, why not give Aldrich some more time. He was productive in the first half, he has some know-how in defending the pick-and-roll, and he’s always willing to hustle.
Final Grade: B
Jeremy Tyler – 5 minutes, 0 points, 3 rebounds, 1 TO, -5
Tylersanity has come to a disappointing halt as he either comes down from his call-up high or just regresses to the norm. Still should get some playing time, though.
The Knicks take on the Miami Heat Thursday night on TNT.
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter.