Coming off a difficult loss Saturday night in Chicago, the Knicks returned home to the Garden to face a Nuggets team which they are all too familiar following the Melo blockbuster that brought the Knicks’ MVP candidate to the Big Apple, while shipping out fan (read: “my”) favorite, Danilo Gallinari. Melo returned from a two game absence to pace the Bockers with 34 points against his former squad, as the Knicks needed another 4th quarter comeback to put away the young, deep and athletic Nuggets. In what now seems to be the norm for this team, the Knicks seemed to turn up the volume to 100 when it mattered, picking up key stops, hitting huge shots and not only trimming a late deficit, but to put away the game comfortably. As usual, Kidd was finding all the right guys, Tyson was making all the big plays and Melo and Co. hit shots when it mattered. Another nice win for the Knicks, who travel across the river to BK on Tuesday, and then “return” home for 6 straight in the Garden, where they remain undefeated.
- If there has been one thing the Knicks have shown in the Mike Woodson era, it is that they defend the Garden floor. The lone undefeated team in the NBA at home, the Knicks once again held serve and, as a team that has played a disproportionate amount of road games thus far, the friendly confines of MSG should hopefully allow them to put some breathing room between themselves and Miami in the coming 2 weeks.
- The Knicks found themselves down 88-80 early in the 4th, and it looked as those the wheels might be coming off a bit, as the game was relatively neck and neck until that point. But, following a well-timed Woodson timeout, Novak hit 2 huge 3s, the Knicks got a couple of baskets each from Melo and Ronnie Brewer and, on the back of a 17-2 run, that 88-80 deficit became a 97-90 advantage that the Knicks never relinquished. Once again, this Knicks team has a Spurs-esque ability to hang tough, hang tough, hang tough… and then wham, put the pedal to the metal for a few minutes span and make those runs that turn deficits to leads, and losses to W. As usual, Jason Kidd was in the middle of everything in this run, picking up loose balls, finding open teammates and always making the correct play.
- The Knicks former Nuggets (Melo, JR, Felton) clearly came out with something to prove to former coach George Karl, who they were known to clash with during their stints in Denver (Melo and JR in particular). Clearly, the trio was pressing last night, as they ended the evening a dismal 19-58 combined from the floor. Particularly puzzling was Melo’s big night was accompanied by a -10 +/-, while JR somehow bricked his way (5-19) to a +12 performance… go figure. JR did a nice job hustling around despite his poor shooting though, as he ended up 9 boards and 2 steals to supplement his 15 points.
- For Melo’s part, his shots weren’t always falling, but he played hard, hustled, got to the line at ton (16 attempts), and generally battled and fought the Manimal, Kenneth Faried, as much as one can. Given that the Knicks were without Camby and Sheed, the Knicks needed Melo to play the post more than he may have preferred, but he was equal to the task.
- Ah, Gallo. How I miss you. In his ’12-’13 return to the Garden, Gallo put together a nice game, once again battling Melo thru most of it. Gallo ended up with 21 points and 9 boards on an efficient 7-11 (all 4 misses came from deep). He hasn’t exactly made the leap it looked like he might this time next year, but he is still just 24 years old, and is proving to be a talented player, even if his ability to make a star turn is hampered a little bit by the Nuggets depth & interchangeable pieces approach. Still, nice to see him flourishing.
- The Knicks continue to win with the same tried and true formula. The score almost no points in transition, instead outpacing their opponent from behind the arc and forcing turnovers, while protecting the ball on their own end. Once again, the Knicks ended the night in single digits for turnovers, which leads to extra shots for the Knicks (86 to 72), which ultimately make the difference. Even tonight, when the Nuggets shot a robust 55.6% from the floor to the Knicks’ 43%, the Knicks’ additional possessions and heavy volume of 3 point attempts proved to be the deciding factor
- In that 55.6% vein, the Knicks defense let a lot to be desired tonight, as they gave up 25 points on the break and 62 points in the paint. Neither number is a tremendous surprise with the Nugs young athletes and the Knicks late of (healthy) interior presence. Still, not exactly numbers to be thrilled about. I’m sure Woody will be addressing those deficiencies in practice today.
Big “road trip” to BK coming up Tuesday. Here’s hoping the Knicks continue to protect their city…