Jan 10, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith (8) dunks against Indiana Pacers forward Ian Mahinmi(28) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Player Report Cards: Knicks 76, Pacers 81

The above scoreline is indeed the official score of an NBA basketball game, completed within the standard, full 48 minutes.The Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony, serving a one-game suspension for his altercation with Kevin Garnett, and really had no shot at playing a productive offensive game against this stingy Indiana Pacers’ defense. The Knicks’ best chance to come up with a big, short-handed victory over a streaking Pacers team was to grind it out, and hope that their below-average defense would be good enough to halt the severely limited Pacers’ offense. The Knicks did that for most of the game, but just couldn’t get over the hump – a big basket or a big stop – when they needed it most.

The offense was messy, supported largely by bail-out J.R. Smith buckets, which provided a third of the Knicks’ offense. With the Pacers denying most opportunities off the pick-and-roll and the Knicks misfiring from the perimeter, Smith spent a good chunk of the time, dribbling the ball all over creation, weaving his way through the defense to find the best looks possible. At times he hit some ridiculous fade-away jumpers (as he is wont to do), others driving the lane for pretty finishes, but with Indiana and the lanky Paul George draped all over him, Smith rarely found room to breathe and get off quality looks.

For the rest of the Knicks, baskets were few and far between. After a trigger-happy first quarter, Chris Copeland hardly saw the court; Tyson Chandler managed some nice finishes, but also blew some easy looks and was rejected on others; Amar’e Stoudemire more-or-less looked out of sorts on jumpers and moves to the basket; Steve Novak and Jason Kidd connected on only 4-14 attempts, pretty much all on the perimeter.

The defense, however, despite how grotesque the Pacers’ offense is anyway, kept the Knicks in the game. There was an over-abundance of switching and miscommunications (particularly with Stoudemire on the floor), but a general dedication to closing out on shooters and hitting the glass helped the Knicks’ cause. Fatigue was the Knicks’ main opponent tonight, though. After allowing only 58 points through three quarters, the Knicks surrendered 23 in the final 12 minutes. It was in the crucial moments of the game, when the Knicks desperately needed stops, that their legs fell flat, failing to run out on shooters, tardy on rotations to provide help at the basket when the perimeter defense was broken down.

An icky game all around, and the player report cards don’t figure to be all too prettier.

J.R. Smith – 40 minutes, 25 points, 10-29 FG, 3 rebounds, 6 assists

The Knicks had few other options but to give Smith the ball and just watch. And by the fourth quarter, Smith actually didn’t seem too pleased with the game plan. After a hot third quarter, in which Smith tallied 12 points, his legs looked flat in the fourth, bricking jumpers and losing the step he’d been using off the dribble to get into the paint and create havoc. His 34% shooting would normally be a critique, but what else could he do with one the NBA’s best perimeter defenders hounding him and virtually all other options cut off? Head-banded, and potentially handicapped by disrupted vision, Smith, donning a Tupac-esque resemblance did what he could to keep the Knicks alive. I salute the effort, Earl. At least we got this.

Final Grade: B-

Tyson Chandler – 38 minutes, 12 points, 5-10 FG, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks

The only other Knick in double figures, Chandler found pretty much all of his field goals off the seldom successful pick-and-roll tonight. When he wasn’t receiving good looks while rolling to the basket, he was disrupted by the length and crowding of the Pacers around the basket. He missed a few easy put-backs and was rejected pretty handily at the rim by Roy Hibbert on a dunk attempt. Chandler also looked exhausted by the fourth quarter, sitting in the paint watching as Ian Mahimi stepped out to the top of the key to hit open jumpers. Chandler’s presence on the boards, however, continues to be astounding as he is now averaging 13.5 rebounds per game over his last seven.

Final Grade: B

Amar’e Stoudemire – 21 minutes, 9 points, 4-11 FG, 8 rebounds, 1 block

I’ll continue to chalk it up to rust as long as Stoudemire still looks like the cheap imitation of his former self. True to his word, Woodson limited STAT’s minutes to 21:31, and it was a hodgepodge of good and bad for him. On offense, Stoudemire’s post-up attempts are still largely ill-fated, either pinning himself under the basket, along the baseline, missing baby hooks, or getting stuffed at the rim. His jumper looks semi-fluid, but hardly accurate (he hit one of six attempts outside the paint tonight). On defense, Stoudemire is still all out of sorts, either missing his man on, failing to switch or assuming switches that aren’t there, or worst of all: running with his back turned to the ball on a fastbreak. He did rebound the ball nicely, though.

Final Grade: C-

Jason Kidd – 31 minutes, 8 points, 3-10 FG, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 TOs

The days are becoming limited where Jason Kidd can start and operate as a team’s primary point guard. Against an aggressive defense like Indiana, Kidd could rarely turn the corner on pick-and-rolls to set up big men or even hit shooters on drive-and-kicks. His defense was serviceable, but his offense was flat. Maybe at this point Jason could donate some of his hand to Raymond Felton to get him back. Right now, no one needs Felton back as badly as Kidd, who at 39-years old, simply cannot keep up this pace.

Final Grade: C

Chris Copeland – 21 minutes, 8 points, 3-9 FG, 6 rebounds, 3 TOs

A number of ugly, awkward post-up and isolation attempts early in the first quarter kind of signaled what was in store for this game. Copeland actually acted as the Knicks’ go-to man to begin the game; a situation I hope we don’t find ourselves in again. After the first quarter, Cope saw his minutes dwindle significantly, and I’m not sure why, but I doubt it affected the game much anyway.

Final Grade: C

Marcus Camby – 19 minutes, 7 points, 3-9 FG, 5 rebounds, 1 block

Arguably the most productive minutes we’d seen from Camby were cut short when he limped to the locker room and was diagnosed with a “sore left foot”. Who knows when we’ll see Marcus again, and it’s a shame because despite low shooting numbers, he was doing nice things on both ends of the floor.

Final Grade: C+

Kurt Thomas – 16 minutes, 4 points, 2-5 FG, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks

In 2013, Kurt Thomas caught a pass at the top of the key, pump-faked, took two dribbles, and pulled up for a midrange jumper, and sank it. He also forced David West, a not-so-far-off All-Star power forward, into some ugly stretches where he turned the ball over, got called for offensive fouls, and missed easy baskets.

Final Grade: C+

Steve Novak – 24 minutes, 3 points, 1-4 FG, 5 rebounds

Wherefore art thou, Novakaine? Granted, the Pacers lock up the three-point line pretty well, but Novak’s once-automatic three-point splashes have almost become a rarity where I find myself once again surprised when he does can one from beyond the arc. Tonight he was more useful on the boards, but it’s becoming a more and more relevant question lately: If he isn’t hitting shots (and Woodson seems to refuse to run plays for him) why is Steve Novak on the floor?

Final Grade: C-

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