The Madison Square Garden dominance continues! There were many storylines headed into last night’s clash between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Would NY be fired up to face their old coach Mike D’Antoni? Would Kobe Bryant have a classic game to turn his squad around? Would Carmelo Anthony added further credence to his MVP campaign? But in the end, the biggest story is that a better constructed team beat up on a vulnerable, lost squad. With that said, there were several moments that I’m sure had every other Knicks fan on edge despite the final score.
Melo Drops 22 in the 1st Quarter: After Melo hit his third consecutive three-pointer to start the game (two in transition), you just knew it was one of those nights for our star player. He was on a mission to show before a national audience and also to his former coach what a talent he is. Melo got to the rim at will, simply blowing by Metta World Peace for dunks and layups. After getting a fouled for a three-point play off a drive, the “MVP!” chants rained down as the score had ballooned to 41-27, a record quarter this season for the league. Melo’s hot start had the rest of the team fired up as well with Raymond Felton getting easy penetration and Tyson Chandler drawing two fouls on Dwight Howard. Melo would finish the game with 30 points.
Hot Shooting Even with Bad Stretches: At one point in the second, the Knicks were shooting an astounding 74% from the field. Melo got to sit most of the quarter and the scoring slack was picked up by JR Smith and Steve Novak to push the lead to 26 points at one point courtesy of a 27-9 run (58-32). That was the peak though for NY, as our team got sloppy with the isolation plays and allowed LA to creep back to as close to 15 before having to settle for a 68-49 deficit at halftime.
The Knicks had to do without Melo for most of the second half when he sprained his ankle following a hard foul from Dwight Howard (punk). The Lakers hovered around 20 points for most of the quarter but some timely shots by Kobe and World Peace had them just down 93-80 going into the fourth. The offense wasn’t pretty at times in the decisive quarter, but the shooting remained solid and allowed the Knicks to push back the Lakers when they cut it six. For the game, NY shot 53% from the field and 48% (12-25) from downtown.
Chandler’s Help Goes Beyond the Stats: Tyson had 18 points, but when you look at the rebounds (just 4), you’d think he had a completely awful night on the boards. That’s not to say he couldn’t have been much better, but he did seal the game with two offensive tip backs into the backcourt that allowed NY to hold possession in the final minute and effectively ice the game. That made up for the underwhelming time he had at the free throw line, just shooting 8-14 (57%).
The Supporting Cast: Novak had to play heavy minutes (26) with Melo’s injury and made good use of it with 12 points (all from downtown). Although he got exploited on offense by the likes of Devin Ebanks, that was offset by a solid shooting night from JR, who dropped 18 points on 7-14 shooting, including a key late three-pointer. Felton was much more streaky (an ugly 9-26 from the field), but made some key jumper throughout the game. He just needs to work on those floaters. Also check youtube later for a nice crossover he put on Dwight Howard.
The Knicks are now 9-0 at home for the season and still sit atop the Eastern Conference standings at 17-5. It was nice seeing Spike Lee teasingly stare down Charles Barkley for his Knick criticisms. Steve Kerr brought some balance to Barkley’s declarations the Knicks can’t go deep in the playoffs, pointing out how Dallas and Miami won titles without dominant rebounding or low-post scoring. Melo might be sitting tomorrow night when we continue our home stand against the Cavs. That could be a tough game if Melo is out and our offense is cold.