It was an ugly game on the offensive end, but a key JR Smith 3-pointer and two huge defensive stops on Paul Pierce allowed the Knicks to get their first win in Boston last night since November 2006. I was not in the mood to see another Pierce dagger jumper and thankfully JR saw to it that NY fans didn’t get another disappointing loss. Onto the game’s notable points.
MELO WAKES UP, BUT OFFENSE PROBLEMS PERSIST: Melo had a horrid first half going 4-13. It wasn’t all his fault either — the refs allowed him to get pounded down low and swallowed their whistles on several calls. To his credit, Melo keep his cool and picked up his aggression in the second half, finishing with 28 points and nailing a key three-pointer in the fourth to help push the lead to 10.
So why was the game so close in the end? There was way too much iso Melo in the last few possession with everyone just standing around. Yes, Melo is our best player, but let’s get some cuts to the basket to help him out. You could see in his body language that Melo was getting exasperated in continually getting the ball with the shot clock running down, which brings me to my next point…
STICK WITH KIDD OR GIVE PRIGIONI A SHOT?: PAblo Prigioni gave us good minutes last night. He got Stat going on some pick n’ rolls and hits two 3s to keep the defense honest. I understand that Coach Woodson has a lot of faith in Jason Kidd — who can forget his early season heroics, especially in the San Antonio and Brooklyn comeback games? Nonetheless, the season is wearing on and Kidd’s legs aren’t as fresh. Rajon Rondo was abusing him in the fourth and like in the Sacramento game, his holding the ball late instead of getting the offense going lead to several bad possessions. I can’t help but think Prigioni would’ve done more than just dump it in to Melo.
STAT GETS GOING: I must say, I like the progress that Amar’e Stoudemire showed today. His block and reverse dunk sequence in the second gave me flashbacks of Stat’s 2010 form. He also got a few offensive boards, 2 blocks and worked the ball in the post. For whatever reason, Stat was ignored on offense during the last few minutes of the fourth which was a huge mistake. If Stat would’ve gotten some of Melo’s and JR’s bad shots, I’m certain he would’ve had his first 20 + game of the season.
KNICKS IN THE ZONE: On defense New York went for long stretches using zone defense which provided excellent results. During one stretch in the first half, the Celtics missed 11 straight field goals. And in the fourth, their offense went stagnant again to allow the Knicks to pull out front 80-70.
I LIKE KURT THOMAS… ON THE BENCH: Unless the Knicks are having a blowout, it’s best that Kurt Thomas stays on the bench and gets his 90s Herb Williams on. In less than a minute during the second quarter, Thomas bricked an open jumper, blew a layup and got beat by Garnett on an alley oop. Woodson did the smart thing pulling him immediately on a timeout and that’s the last we saw of him.
SHUMPERT’S JUMPER: I’m praying that Iman Shumpert’s shooting isn’t fool’s gold like Ronnie Brewer’s early season success. In the second quarter, Boston went on a 8-0 run to take a 33-31 lead and Pierce was lighting us up to the tune of a 15-point quarter. It was Shumpert who hit back to back 3-pointers to kill their momentum and allow NY to take a slim 50-48 lead into halftime. We’re in desperate need of a third reliable scorer, especially when Melo and JR are struggling. If Shumpert can be that, it’ll do wonders for the rest of the season.
CHANDLER NOT AT HIS BEST: Although he picked it up in the second half, Tyson Chandler had a subpar game by his standards. Guys were getting into the lane too easy without him contesting. I’m sure foul trouble played a role, but he had some strong finishes at the rim in the third for “and 1” finishes that helped NY to take a 72-66 lead into the fourth. He finished with 5 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Most importantly, he held Kevin Garnett to eight points.
WHY YOU STAY WITH JR SMITH: When you don’t shoot well, you have to contribute in other ways. That’s exactly with JR did last night. He shot 3-16 for just 9 points, but with him off the floor we lose. With Boston threatening to take the lead, JR single-handedly made Paul Pierce look like a fool on two possessions. The first was a deflection off Pierce after breaking up a Jason Terry pass. The second was the game-clincher in JR thwarting a potential three-pointer by slapping the ball away and off Pierce. JR should’ve took a bow and blew a kiss at the crowd to prove a point.
A STATEMENT GAME: After getting pushed around for most of the season by teams with physical defense, the Knicks proved they could get it done in a grind-out, playoff type game. It was made extra sweet being against a hated division rival, pushing their record two games under .500 (20-22),and extending their losing streak to five. I couldn’t ask for better “revenge” game ending to the whole Honey Nut Cheerios nonsense.