Melo had 34, and the Knicks needed every one of 'em.

Knicks 110, Pacers 109

My last regular-season recap means my last chance to use bullet points instead of a real recap.  In the playoffs that just ain’t gonna cut it, but tonight I can’t pass up the opportunity at one last run of non sequiturs.  Earlier today the Celtics were trounced in Miami, reinforcing my opinion that we should all be pulling for Knicks-Celts in round one.  Will the Knicks come through?  Let’s find out.

First Quarter

  • When Chauncey Billups actually makes one of his horrendous pull-up 23-foot two pointers, I have the same look on my face Jay Bilas had every time VCU won a game in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Fields to the bucket for the layup – Knicks 17, Pacers 15.  Those easy takes from Landry took us by surprise earlier in the year, then became rather commonplace, then disappeared completely…now?  They’re starting to come back.  Good vibes heading into next weekend.
  • Jared…Jeffries…for…three?
  • You know, there are white guys in the league, and then there’s Mike Dunleavy.  He looks like he just got done shooting Hoosiers.
  • Bill Walker gets all backboard and no rim on a three, and just as I was starting to think, “Hey maybe we should give Mason a shot at those minutes,” I realized I wasn’t judging Walker’s entire game based on whether that shot went in, the way I would with Mason.
  • 33-33 after one quarter.  Melo with 14 on 10 FGA; looks like he’s in that mood tonight.

Second Quarter

  • Derrick Brown is getting some second quarter burn, and he makes a nice cut to the hoop and draws a foul.  I love these playoff auditions.  We’re early in the second quarter, the second unit is in full effect – Douglas, Fields, Turiaf, Brown and Carter – and all five of these guys are playing their stones off to earn that burn.  Just now Turiaf had a rejection that looked like something out of Spartacus.  This is fantastic to watch.
  • Oh, and the Pacers have taken a five-point lead.  I know I kind of made it seem like we were up by 30 just now.  Didn’t want to lead anyone astray.
  • After a miss, Billups strips Granger and feeds Brown for the easy stuff.  This is my one positive mention per post about Chauncey Billups.  It comes purely out of journalistic obligation.
  • Shawne Williams with an athletic block on Collison, catching him from behind and swatting it off the glass; Jeffries with a block on Hibbert after some tough D; Douglas follows his own miss with a an offensive board and sets up Billups for three.  Hustle plays!
  • Pacers color announcer Quinn Buckner: “Defensively, the Knicks are playing much better.  They’re playing with intensity, they’re playing with athleticism – Mike D’Antoni’s team has been criticized for not playing defense.  They’re bringing it tonight.”  I believe praising the Knicks’ defense is step one of How Not to Get Hired by ESPN.
  • Despite better defense, Indiana is on pace to score 122 points.  The Knicks got hot from downtown, however, and lead this one 67-61 at halftime.  Lots of fouls, but an energetic affair so far with both teams mostly even across the board, but the Knicks’ efforts from behind the arc have them in front for the moment.  Other than Melo’s 18 points and Billups, who’s 4-8 with 15 points, it’s been balanced scoring across the board as D’Antoni appears to be letting everybody get just enough run in to break a sweat.

Third Quarter

  • Shawne Williams picks up his fourth foul 30 seconds into the second half.  Oy.
  • Hibbert just abuses Shelden Williams on the low block and gets an open dunk.  I guess the silver lining there is that neither the Celtics nor the Heat has a player capable of doing that.
  • Collison runs circles around Billups and ties the game at 72.  He’s got nine; Billups hasn’t been exposed by the smaller, quicker Collison like some (read: me) might have expected.
  • Hibbert finds George cutting to the bucket for a jam, and Billups gets T’ed up for bitching and moaning.  The Knicks have gone over five minutes without a field goal.  Pacers by four, 5:30 to go.
  • Melo makes a free throw to secure his 61st 20-point game of the year.  Pretty amazing.  The next time down he buries a pull-up trey to end the Knicks’ field goal drought and put New York ahead.
  • Dahntay Jones strips Anthony, and George finishes a lob from Collison on the fast break; on the next possession Melo is right back at it, though, and hits an 18-footer.   He’s 8-22 for 26 points.  Again, pretty amazing.
  • If I weren’t a Knicks fan and I had to watch Chauncey Billups flop for cheap fouls and get three free throws because he jumped from behind the line and end up chucking up a 17-footer, I would’ve put an axe through my television a long time ago.  Mr. Big Shot is 4-11, because if he shot any better there wouldn’t be any big shots to hit down the stretch, now would there?
  • Anthony picks up his fifth foul after Collison crosses Carter out of his shoes.  Seriously, that was some And-1 Mixtape tour stuff – Carter is off the bus.
  • Chris Denari on Jared Jeffries: “This is a big scoring night for him – he has 7!”  Not as much sarcasm as you would’ve thought.
  • Carter throws a fastball through Jeffries’ hands.  I thought point guards were supposed to know their big men?
  • Hibbert with a baby hook, Shawne Williams throws the inbounds pass away, and AJ Price buries a trey to end the quarter with Indy at its largest lead, 96-87.  An ugly quarter for the Knicks who shot very poorly and are on life support only by their efforts at the line.

Fourth Quarter

  • A rare layup from Shawne Williams cuts the lead to three at the 9:30.  Good showing from Shawne tonight despite 1-5 3PT – he’s played tough D and looked energetic running the floor.
  • Nice job by Bully Walker to draw a blocking foul on Jeff Foster; he used just enough body movement at the point of contact to get Foster out of position to take the charge.  Good to see Shawne and Bully in competition to prove they can do things besides stand alone and shoot threes.
  • Billups throws a brick off the backboard and then has to wrap up Collison on the fast break.  Obviously that shot wasn’t big enough or it would’ve gone in.
  • Anthony makes his return with five fouls at the 6:07 mark, and buries two threes in short order (six for the game) to bring the deficit to two.  He has 32 but until those last two possessions it hadn’t been the efficient 32 we’ve seen the last couple weeks.
  • The Knicks are spreading the floor to create chances for their three-point shooters, but Shawne can’t make them pay.  At this point, without Amar’e, you’d have to say it’s probably time to just hand Melo the reins and ask him to win the game.  I’m all for ball movement, but Indiana isn’t respecting anyone but Melo; if the others are going to get opportunities, it will be through Melo’s creativity.
  • Mr. Big Shot gets called for a carry.  With two minutes to go in a tight game in the fourth quarter.  I’ll let you imagine for yourself how obvious that carry had to have been.  Thanks again for coming, Chauncey.
  • Funny sequence as the Knicks bring it up but Billups actually can’t get separation on Collison to get the ball and start the offense.  That’s our point guard, ladies and gentlemen.  He’ll be here all spring.
  • Mr. Big Shot goes one of two at the line to cut the deficit to three.  Shawne strips Collison and Fields finishes with a dunk on the other end!  And it’s a one-point game!  Timeout Indiana, 40 seconds to go.
  • Collison launches a terrible shot with the shot clock winding down and, it must be said, excellent defense from Billups.  Turiaf on the board and the Knicks have it down one with 13 to go as Quinn Buckner insists the Knicks have two legitimate end-of-game options.  I’ll let you guess the second one.
  • Anthony gets it in isolation…face up…one dribble…burial.  Knicks by one with five seconds to play.  It’s their first lead since…well, I have no idea.  You think I have a statistician sitting here next to me?  Anyway, it’s been a while since they led.  While we’re here, thought, I will drop some numbers on you: the Knicks were outrebounded by 13 in the second half after going even in the first, and the Knicks allowed just 13 points in the fourth quarter after 35 in the third.
  • Final play of the game: Granger gets it 20 feet away, one dribble and up…and MELO REJECTS HIM!  Collison alertly grabbed the rebound and threw one up in desperation, but to no avail: your final is Knicks 110, Pacers 109.  Really a pretty classic “Good Team Minus an Important Player Finding a Way to Get It Done on the Road” victory.  The Knicks didn’t have their best game, and didn’t match up very well on the perimeter or in the paint, and still found a way to get ahead at the right time.  For Knicks fans it’s more incredibly encouraging stuff as we roll on to the playoffs, the kind of win you’d expect from a more mature and experienced group.  Hell, I’ve seen the Celtics win that game about a dozen times this year alone.  Savor this victory, thanks for putting up with all this verbiage, and enjoy what little weekend we still have left.

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