Last night, the New York Knicks slaughtered the Milwaukee Bucks (unnecessarily graphic?) 102 to 88, but the game started as a nail-biter. During a hotly contested first quarter -- a quarter which the Knicks ultimately lost 26 to 23 -- many Knicks fans were ready to throw out the season, trade away everyone except Iman Shumpert and pack up shop for next year. Of course, when I refer to "many Knicks fans," or use the royal we in this article, I am speaking only for my brother, Tobias, and I.
During the second quarter, with the Knicks still in the throes of a tight game, something amazing happened -- a 35-year-old rookie emerged from the bench with great hair and a greater accent, and changed the game.
With Jason Kidd still out due to back spasms, Pablo Prigioni got extended playing time. He was aggressive as soon as he hit the court, looking for his shot more than usual -- something that Coach Mike Woodson has made a point of emphasis for the rook. In the second quarter alone, Prigioni put up 8 points on a perfect 3 for 3 from the floor -- including 2 for 2 from downtown (a part of his game that some considered a weakness before he entered the league), in addition to 3 assists and a steal. He finished the game with 11 points and seven assists, and for a team that was woefully stagnant on offensive Monday against the Nets, a bit of the Argentine's pass-first mentality was exactly what the team needed.
As halftime approached, it was clear that the Knicks were taking their game to another level, and it appeared that the Bucks were all but willing to bend to the 'Bockers will. The Knicks finished with 35 points in the second as compared to the Bucks' 22, taking a comfortable 10-point lead into the half (58 to 48) and never looked back.
The third quarter was more of the same. The Knicks came out of the locker room guns blazing with Novak knocking down an elbow three on the first play after intermission. Novakaine had a great homecoming against the Bucks (he went to Deer Field High -- Go Falcons!) shooting 5 for 7 from behind the arc -- an area known to many Knicks fans as "Novak Scotia" (patent pending). Novak's five three-pointers tied a season high, while he eclipsed his previous marks in points and minutes, scoring a season high 19 points (on 7 of 10 shooting from the field) during a season high 39 minutes of play.
Novak can thank his buddy, J.R. Smith, for all those extra minutes, as Smith -- who was the Knicks second leading scorer before last night -- spent much of the night in foul trouble. After the refs hit him with three quick whistles in the first (not literally), he never found his rhythm, and finished the game with a pair of points and rebounds, a steal, and five fouls in 18 minutes -- many of which were during garbage time.
After the Knicks dropped a 30 spot on the Bucks in the third -- tallying a 65 to 44 beat-down in the middle two quarters alone -- the Knicks sported an 18 point lead heading into the 4th, exhibiting a killer mentality to take the Bucks out, and give them no hope for a comeback. Though the Bucks tried to make it a game late in the 4th, they never got closer than twelve, as the Knicks maintained a double-digit lead throughout the entire second half. The game petered out with some truly unnecessary basketball ("Hey look, there's Chris Copeland") before reaching its logical conclusion -- Knicks win, 102 to 88.
Oh, and Carmelo Anthony chipped in with an ultra-efficient 29 points on 9 of 18 shooting and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes of play (he sat the entire fourth). Tyson Chandler scored 17 points shooting (read: dunking) a perfect 4 for 4 from the field, as well as 9 of 10 from the charity stripe to go along with 8 'bounds of his own.
(Side note: Over the last two games, Chandler has missed one field goal after shooting 12 for 13 from the floor Monday night in Brooklyn. To reiterate: in the National Basketball Association, playing against the top talent in the world, dude has missed one shot in 72 minutes of play. Over the last six games, Chandler has made an unbelievable 32 of his 36 attempts, and is leading the league with a mind numbing, truly stupid 70.4% shooting from the field. Dude... what?)
And finally, Raymond Felton -- whom I harangued, perhaps excessively in my last post (though let us not forget how sad we all were on Monday night) -- played a solid-to-awesome game. Though he was matched up against a defensively soft backcourt in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, the dude did drop some dimes, and had a mess load of steals, finishing the night with seven assists and four steals to go along with 12 points on 5 for 10 shooting and three boards. For the game, I'll give him a B+/A- when taking into account his defenders and the rampant grade inflation in higher education.
Overall, I was encouraged by this outing. Rasheed Wallace who has thus far been (inexplicably) our best big off the bench -- had a poor shooting night (2 for 10 from the field). Thankfully, Novak and Prigioni picked up the slack, while Melo, Chandler, and Felton played at the top of their games (as per usual, or in Felton's case, as he needs to).
The Knicks are a deep team, with a number of different offensive threats that could pop off on any given night. This team reminds me of a more offensively adept version of teams in the '90s. And I like that -- I like that we're tough, and that we have so many different weapons -- especially with Shumpert and Amare still waiting on the wings.
That being said, let us hold our proverbial horses, and refrain from busting out the champagne just yet. Sure, the drink is tasty and the bubbles send you into fits of giggles so bad your mom has to put you to sleep at 10:30 p.m. on New Years (it happens to the best of us), but to quote Mr Muckle, a commenter on my last post: "Dude, it was one game."
Right you are, Señor Muckles. We are supposed to beat the Bucks, and we did so handedly. Accordingly, I will withhold any gratuitous praise for the Knicks until we play an actual title contender, which will be awhile as our next three opponents are the Wizards (they won their first game last night), Suns (Michael Beasley) and Bobcots (just read this snippet on their most recent loss).
So circle your calendars for Thursday, December 6 -- and don't forget to wear your breeziest floral linen shirt or call your grandparents in Boca because we're "taking our talents to South Beach" (that was easy, I know) to see if we can overthrow the King (again).