Games like this will have you beside yourself. Warriors point guard Steph Curry walked into the Garden last night, became possessed, and put on one of the most amazing shooting displays I’ve ever seen. I think I speak for every Knicks fan when I say I’m thankful we only have to see this kid twice a year (We damn near got a repeat of the infamous “Double Nickel”). But luckily we had our own beast last night in Tyson Chandler, along with high-level scoring from Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith to pull out an important home victory. While the game wasn’t decided until the final seconds, the Knicks made some crucial adjustments to pull this one out.
CHANDLER HAS A GAME FOR THE AGES: With no David Lee to counteract him in the middle, Tyson Chandler was feasting from the opening tip. Our man in the middle had 13 rebounds in the first quarter along with seven points. He never let up throughout the entire game and snatched 10 offensive rebounds and ended up with a career high of 28 rebounds (the most by a Knicks player in over 20 years).
While we can’t expect Chandler to grab that many rebounds regularly, the team definitely needs that high energy as the defense begins and ends with him.
FELTON TAKES A BEATING BUT PROVES HIS WORTH: For most of this game poor Raymond Felton was getting the Ike-Tina Turner treatment from Curry. Sometimes it was Curry taking advantage of the Knicks’s overall poor transition defense and popping pull-up treys off fast breaks. Other times it was beating Felton off the dribble and getting to the rim or nailing short jumpers. At halftime, the kid had 27 points and was 4/6 from downtown.
Curry dropped 11 points on Felton’s head in the third and a three-pointer briefly gave them the lead (67-65) with over 7 minutes left. Felton responded with his own three that helped NY get back in front 77-73, but Curry continued blitzing from downtown. He had four more treys (one being an absolute dagger with just 4 seconds left on the shot clock to put the Warriors up 103-102).
At this point, you’d think Felton would have been sufficiently demoralized. But the man remained focused even after missing two wide-open momentum threes and bricking two free throws. On the other end, he finally succeeded in pushing Curry off the three-point line and forced him into a jumper he was able to block. The key defensive play resulted in a score off a JR Smith jumper to make it 107-105. Felton would later steal a simple inbounds pass to burn more time off the clock and even though he bricked two more crucial free throws, he secured his own offensive rebound to kill additional time.
His stat line overall doesn’t jump out at you (10 pts on 3/10 shooting, 4 assists), but Felton’s 4 steals were invaluable.
JR FROM DOWNTOWN: The only Knick consistently hitting from downtown last night was JR Smith, who had a great game on 10/19 shooting (6/11 from the arc). Smith is much better from the arc when he catches and shoots as opposed to a bunch of dribbling. He was quick with the trigger and seemed to have a timely triple every time Curry started feeling himself. And another overlooked contribution from JR was his five aggressive rebounds, several on them in the key fourth quarter.
STAT CORRECTS 1ST HALF WOES: Amar’e Stoudemire came in with a dunk late in the first quarter and promptly caught two cheap fouls. He picked up his third early in the second and got a tech for mocking the referee. Wasn’t solely his fault, but Stat’s problems were huge in the second unit going scoreless for six minutes. That allowed Golden State to make a run behind Curry’s hot hand to tie midway in the second and only be down 58-53 at halftime.
The third was a little better but Stat too often found himself switched onto the perimeter on defense. The fourth was different with Stat, Melo and Chandler playing at the same time. Melo made it a point to look for Stat when he drew double teams, resulting in Amar’e getting several easy dunks.
While the rebounding (4) could have been better, Stat ended up with a very solid 14 points on 6/7 shooting.
MELO’S 35 POINTS: Melo went 10/26 but there’s more behind those numbers. Yes, he took a few bad shots (two very ball iso ball possessions late in the fourth), but other times it was the result of the offense being stagnant and the guards passing to him late in the shot clock looking to be bailed out. With his shooting erratic, he got to the line (13-15) and moved the ball to the open man (Felton, Stat etc.) and notched 8 assists. Overall he made the right decisions, and his late three-pointer and post-up jumper are two of the baskets that took this game from Golden State.
WOODY’S HEAD-SCRATCHER: Coach Woodson left me dumbfounded with the decision to leave Felton on Curry. A few times JR got the assignment, but it wasn’t until Shumpert got on him that we got a breather from the three-point barrage. Granted, no one was going to be stopping Curry last night, but at least Shumpert would have made him work a little harder, as he did in the second quarter in being physical. Shump made his defensive presence known all the night to the tune of 6 steals and securing a key turnover late in the fourth — he and Chandler forced Jarrett Jack into a baseline trap resulting in a travel.
Outside of that, the most important decision Woody did right was making sure Jason Kidd and Novak had nice seats on the bench as their contributions were nil.
IT’S A TEAM GAME: In all the marveling about Curry’s 54 points, people forget that basketball is a team sport for a reason. The rest of the starters combined for 5 points at halftime and 13 points for the game. The team outside of Curry had 51 points. Once the ball got taken out of Steph’s hands down the stretch, the Knicks victory was sealed.
JASON KIDD IS MIKE BIBBY STATUS: I get no joy out of saying that, but Kidd should be in the doghouse for the foreseeable future. The man cannot hit an open shot to save his life — he bricked four wide open threes and couldn’t get anything going. I do think Kidd gets out of this slump, but for now he needs a mental and physical rest… on the bench.
K-MART’S WELCOMED DEFENSE: Kenyon Martin had a very limited 5 minutes of work in the second quarter. But in that stretch we saw why he should have a nice place on this team. He got switched off on Curry and forced him into a pass and later on covered up Novak getting burned with some timely help defense. If Woody insists on playing Stat and Novak at the same time, a guy like Martin can help tremendously in covering the defensive mistakes those two are prone to make.
The Knicks get to enjoy their victory today but need to get refocused on Friday when they face the Wizards, who embarrassed them earlier in the month.