When the New York Knicks nearly blew a double-digit lead in the final minutes of a win over the Philadelphia 76ers last Friday, we prematurely assumed they’d gotten it out of their systems. But after building a 15-point cushion going into halftime, the Cavaliers quickly got to work in the second half and shrunk said cushion to a couple of baskets. Despite missing Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers just kept pushing a Knicks team that got far too lax and, later, shaken up by the intensified pressure.
The Knicks had some responses throughout the second half, but when the Cavs finally took the lead on a Luol Deng three-point with less than six minutes to play, it just seemed as though the Knicks wouldn’t rebound. As the quarter continued on, it was death at the hands of Jarrett Jack, who sank dagger after dagger en route to a season-high 31 points on 13-19 shooting. The Knicks fumbled all of their chances to regain the lead down the stretch, and in the process, likely lost all hope of making the playoffs this season as they’re not three games out of eighth place, staring down a west coast swing.
A look at the individual performances:
Carmelo Anthony – 40 minutes, 32 points, 8-20 FG, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 3 TOs, -8
What began as a really efficient outing slowly flushed itself down the drain when the fourth quarter arrived. Facing increased pressure, ‘Melo went into his typically weird, borderline bitter one-on-one game (against Luol Deng of all people) and came out the loser. He forced the issue, prioritizing jab-stepping and one-dribble-pull-ups instead of getting shots in rhythm or creating looks for his teammates. A field-goal-less fourth quarter for Anthony in the game that could spell the end of New York’s season.
Final Grade: B
Amar’e Stoudemire – 30 minutes, 12 points, 6-10 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, +3
Stoudemire, too, began the game at crazily efficient rate and slowly unraveled as time went on. He couldn’t figure out the Cavaliers’ pick-and-roll and when calls stopped going his way, he chirped at the refs and earned a momentum-turning technical. Still, with the Knicks floundering late, he would’ve been a better on-court piece than Tim Hardaway Jr.
Final Grade: B-
Tyson Chandler – 36 minutes, 4 points, 2-2 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 TOs, -17
Amazingly failed to come up with double-digit rebounds after corralling four of them in the opening four minutes. As the game continued, his second-chance opportunities dwindled as did his effectiveness in the pick-and-roll (both on offense and defense). Woodson subbed him out in the final minute to go for a different look and Chandler had this sort of “where should I play next?” look on his face.
Final Grade: C
J.R. Smith – 38 minutes, 18 points, 7-15 FG, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 TOs, -4
Smith hung tough through this one. He remains one of the Knicks’ best passers this season, and early on, he was doing a great job of floating the ball up to Tyson at the rim, or throwing skip passes to spot-up shooters. When the time came, he hit several big (albeit in defeat) shots. Thanks anyway, JR.
Final Grade: B+
Raymond Felton- 32 minutes, 14 points, 5-12 FG, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, -13
Ah, Raymond Felton. How do you analyze one of a player’s best offensive performances of the season while acknowledging that said player also allowed his opponent a season high and a victory? Or did I get that backwards?
Final Grade: C+
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 27 minutes, 12 points, 5-12 FG, 2 rebounds, -2
Tim Hardaway Jr. is great in certain spots. For the most part, though, closing a tight game that holds the weight of the regular season isn’t one of those spots. Didn’t hit enough in the fourth to warrant the playing time.
Final Grade: C-
Pablo Prigioni – 16 minutes, 6 points, 2-2 FG, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, +7
On offense, Pablo’s been quicker on the trigger, and it’s led to good things like the swelling of a double-digit lead in the first half. The Knicks could’ve really used more of him in the second half, but Woodson opted for Felton.
Final Grade: B+
Cole Aldrich – 6 minutes, 2 points, 0-1 FG, 1 assist, +2
Aldrich continues to aim for opponents’ domes in the pick-and-roll. Tonight was “Failed Dunk Attempt 19: Anderson Varejao Edition.”
Final Grade: C
Shannon Brown – 15 minutes, 0-3 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, -1
No Shump = more Shannon Brown, apparently. Not a fan of this option. Get well soon, Shump!
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