It was the best of the halves, it was the worst of halves.
Not even Charles “Knickens” Dickens himself could have scripted a more unpredictable affair than the one that took place at The Garden last night between the New York Knicks and soon-to-be Brooklyn Nyets.
After 24:00 minutes of play, boos reigned down from an angry crowd on the hapless Knicks, unsurprising after the home team surrendered a mind-numbing 68 points to the Nets — the highest scoring half of New Jersey’s entire season.
The Knicks were out-rebounded 30 to 16, with 11 of those being of the offensive variety — leading to 18 second-chance points for the Nets.
And they let Brook “Sideburns” Lopez gore them for 22 first-half points, 16 in the first quarter alone.
Defensive miscues aside, the “Big-3” came out strong in the first half offensively, as Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups accounted for 49 of the team’s 58 points. Even more impressive was a glimpse of those players’ potential for cohesion while executing Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
Plays ran mostly through Anthony, who looked more comfortable by the minute embracing the concept of aware’in and sharin’.
Strangely, Stoudemire collected just one rebound by halftime, an astounding sum that he was unable to augment by the game’s conclusion. But more on that later.
At the start the third quarter, it was fairly evident that the Knicks were not fooling around. The Garden faithful cheered madly – go figure — as the team’s intensity and hustle reappeared, and ‘Melo once again put the game on his shoulders.
He dropped 20 points in the frame (39 points and 10 rebounds in all for the game), displaying an array of spins that made the New Jersey players’ heads… well, spin.
Not be overlooked, Billups also contributed mightily to the Knicks’ victory, finishing the contest with his Knick-high 33 points (19 in the second half), six assists, six rebounds, and most importantly, zero turnovers.
Billups also appeared more active and energetic than he has at any point since coming back from the leg injury he sustained against Orlando back on February 28th.
New York also got vital (and unexpected) bench contributions from the much-maligned Jared Jefferies, the unique-looking Sheldon Williams, and former street ball-hustler Anthony Carter.
Going forward, whether the Knicks emulate their impressive second-half play — where they held New Jersey to just 48 points — or they revert back to their first-half ineptitude, remains to be seen.
Not only did Amar’e Stoudemire manage to collect just one rebound for the entire game, but he also failed to box out — again — on multiple defensive possessions.
Remember when Tom Coughlin once helped Tiki Barber with that fumbling problem? Well, I’m thinking that every time Amar’e fails to box out in practice, he gets a code red from his teammates in the shower. Something has to be done.
The Knicks’ second victory in a row reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff berth to three.
Next up for New York are the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers at MSG on Sunday night at 6:00pm. That the Knicks have inexplicably lost all three meetings against Cleveland this year doesn’t make them any less lowly.
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