1. Knicks Nab Needed W, But Issues Remain
ESPN.com TrueHoop Network
Weekend matinees in the Garden have tended to be where would-be New York Knicks bounce-backs give way to new lows, at least in seasons past.
But Carmelo Anthony & Co. took care of business Sunday afternoon, snapping a two-game Texas skid with a 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons and patching at least temporarily some potentially threatening fissures.
A combination of hot shooting and renewed defensive purpose helped spur the Knicks to a 20-point halftime lead, and it looked for a while like Mike Woodson would be able to rest his road-weary starters ahead of Monday night's showdown in Brooklyn -- a make-up of a Nov. 1 game postponed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
The Pistons -- buoyed by Brandon Knight (21 points and five assists), Kyle Singler (16 points) and Charlie Villanueva (17) -- managed to keep things interesting, cutting the lead to eight with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter.
That's as close as Lawrence Frank's troops would get, however, as the 'Bockers revitalized touch from long distance (17-for-33 from deep on the afternoon, including a much-needed 5-for-7 outing from Steve Novak) helped blow the doors open down the stretch.
Despite the lopsided score, the game marked the third straight time the Knicks allowed their opponent to crest the century mark. After riding a handful of early blowouts to elite defensive status, teams have quickly become more adept at breaking down the Knicks by drive and back-door feed, to the tune of 100 paint points the past two games (including 46 Sunday).
Luckily, Anthony (29 points on 10-for-18 shooting) came out guns ablazin', hitting his first six shots en route to 15 early points, the third time in four games Melo's tallied as many or more in the opening frame.
The crisp ball movement that defined New York's unlikely 6-0 start -- and that receded somewhat in their past two losses -- was back, to the tune of 24 dimes on 38 field goals made. Key to this was the heady play of Raymond Felton (14 points and 10 assists), J.R. Smith (15 points, 10 rebounds and five dimes in 31 measured minutes) and Jason Kidd, whose pedestrian stat lines (six points, five rebounds, three assists on this occasion) belie the wily vet's indispensible presence at both ends of the floor.
Still, the quick kicks and swings seemed at times borne more out of timely convenience than strategic necessity. Indeed, while Anthony continues to impress with a more discerning shot selection, his half-dozen turnovers -- that makes 20 in the past three games -- hints at old narratives of offensive stagnation threatening to bubble to the surface.
The Knicks will and should ride Anthony's hot hand while they can. That's not merely a basketball truism; it's how the team has been constructed. But it will be up to Woodson to assure that Melo's inevitable cooling off -- both during games and in the ebb and flow of the season -- doesn't come at the expense of efficiency. (The team finished the day ranked second in the league in offensive production.)
There's also the matter of rebounding, something New York (out-boarded 38-37 by Detroit) has lately found something of a struggle. It's not as though the Knicks lack the requisite size to compete on the glass; Tyson Chandler, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Anthony have all put up solid numbers thus far, and contrary to popular belief the team is giving one of the lowest offensive rebounding rates (10.5 per game) in the league. Rather, it's in opponent defensive rebounding (33.1 per game -- second worst only to Philadelphia), and the resulting lack of second-chance opportunities, where the Knicks have thus far been anemic.
But no talk of the Knicks' recent mini-skid would be complete without crossing the T -- as in technical foul, something the orange and blue have invited with animated aplomb all season long.
Sheed -- jealous perhaps of Anthony's early-season lead -- picked up his second T of the season during a Villanueva second-quarter free throw attempt. That brought the Knicks' season total to a league-leading 12, eight of which belong to Carmelo Anthony (five) and Mike Woodson (three). Not exactly what you'd expect from a team off to its best start in nearly two decades.
It remains to be seen whether such ref baiting will morph from early anomaly to full-blown pandemic. But if the Knicks hope to garner Heat- or Celtic-level whistle love, they must do a better job of picking their battles, particularly when Anthony -- fast learning the flip-side of playing the 4 -- isn't getting the calls.
For the next 24 hours anyway, the Knicks managed to stop the bleeding. Now it's off across the East River to the Barclays Center, where the Atlantic Division's top two teams will square off in a much-anticipated Monday night tilt. Platitudes of measuring sticks aside, it will be as good an opportunity as any for the Knicks to show they have a handle on the cracks in their foundation, and the recipe necessary to seal them.
Jim Cavan's work appears regularly on Knickerblogger
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
Most valuable player: Rajon Rondo. The Celtics' point guard finished with a near triple-double (15 points, 16 assists and 9 rebounds). Rondo almost sabotaged this award by missing badly on two jumpers late in the game but he was able to bounce back both times and close the game strong.
Least valuable player: Jeff Green. It's weird when the winning team has both MVP and the LVP but sometimes it just fits. The Magic had the luxury of everyone contributing in a meaningful way while the Celtics' backup small forward finished the game with one point (0-for-9 from the field) and two rebounds in 20 minutes.
Defining moment: With just more than two minutes to go in overtime, Paul Pierce knocked down a 3-pointer that put the Celtics up 111-108. Before that, the Magic and Celtics were trading baskets and it was anyone's game. After that shot, the Celtics never lost the lead.
Recap | Box score
MVP: The Nets' backcourt of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams carried Brooklyn to the victory. Johnson scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half, and Williams finished with 15 points and 12 assists.
X factor: The benches. With LaMarcus Aldridge out with back spasms, the Blazers were forced to start rookie center Meyers Leonard, leaving an already thin bench even more shorthanded. Portland's reserves were outscored by Brooklyn's 31-9.
Defining moment: With the game tied after three quarters, Williams and Johnson keyed an offensive surge from the Nets in the final period, with Reggie Evans crashing the boards and making some big defensive contributions.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Tony Parker. The Spurs' point guard finished with 32 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Overtime, though, was where Parker really excelled, scoring 11 points in the extra periods to lead San Antonio.
X factor: Danny Green's 3-pointer from the corner on the first possession of the second overtime. Toronto came from behind plenty to force two overtimes, but you got the impression they wouldn't battle back much longer after Green's 3.
LVP: Andrea Bargnani. Big men who can play the pick-and-pop can be very effective against the Spurs. On Sunday, Bargnani was anything but, finishing 2-for-19 from the field for just four points.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Not only did Carmelo Anthony score 29 points in 32 minutes, he had three assists and generally kept the ball moving. Tayshaun Prince's defense wasn't necessarily poor, but when Melo is playing like this, it's tough to stop his Knicks.
X factor: While the Pistons defense was mostly terrible, Andre Drummond had 11 rebounds, three blocks and a steal. So why did he play less than Charlie Villanueva?
That was comforting: Whether it was J.R. Smith (15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists), Steve Novak (5-of-7 on 3-pointers) or Rasheed Wallace (15 points), plenty of Knicks have reason to feel especially good after snapping a two-game losing streak.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Jrue Holiday carved up the Suns for a career-high 33 points and 13 assists on 13-for-21 shooting. He also hit a tough midrange shot with 26 seconds left that ended up being the decisive bucket.
Defining moment: Michael Beasley scored eight points in the final five minutes to give the Suns a chance, but his potential game-tying layup with 2.9 seconds left rimmed out to all but seal the defeat.
That was strange: Marcin Gortat dominated the size-deficient Sixers for 13 points on six shots in the third, but he did not play a second of the fourth quarter as Alvin Gentry rode the veteran Jermaine O'Neal.
3. Sunday's Best
Jrue Holiday, Sixers: The Sixers enjoyed their Holiday. He had a career-high 33 points and 13 assists, leading the 76ers over the Suns 104-101. In his fourth season, Holiday has five double-doubles after posting one last season.
4. Sunday's Worst
Andrea Bargnani, Raptors: Missing all seven of his 3-point tries hints at how bad things went in a 111-106 double OT loss to the Spurs. Bargnani making just two of 19 field goal attempts. "Today was definitely a very bad night," Bargnani said. "Maybe the worst."
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
8. Where Manimal Reigns
9. Stat Check
Rajon Rondo posted 16 assists in the Boston Celtics' 116-110 overtime victory at the Orlando Magic. It was the third straight game with at least 15 assists for Rondo, who also recorded a three-game streak of 15 or more helpers last April. Only one other player has had a three-game streak of at least 15 assists over the past five seasons: Steve Nash (December 2010).
10. Out Of Africa
Four of the six African players on NBA rosters will take to the court Monday night in Oklahoma City. The visiting Charlotte Bobcats feature Bismack Biyombo (Democratic Republic of Congo) and DeSagana Diop (Senegal) while the home team boasts Serge Ibaka (Congo) and Hasheem Thabeet (Tanzania), as well as Thabo Sefolosha, who has strong ties to South Africa, where his father is from.
Iggy Slams The Door
Most valuable player: Andre Iguodala. Iggy had 23 points and nailed four 3-pointers, but it was his hounding defense of New Orleans Hornets point guard Greivis Vazquez (six turnovers) that stood out. He effectively shut down any chance New Orleans had to keep things interesting.
Defining Moment: With the Nuggets leading by 18 with about six minutes to go in the third quarter, Iguodala drained a 3-pointer from the wing. Ty Lawson stole the subsequent inbounds pass and made a layup to further cement Denver's dominance.
That was manimalistic: Kenneth Faried had a monster first quarter. He went 5-for-5 from the field for 10 points, collected 2 rebounds, and had both a steal and a crazy block.
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