First things first, I WAS AT THIS GAME!!!!!!
Seeing as Knicks at Night does not pay me enough to drop bills on basketball’s most expensive tickets, I decided my entry to MSG would have to come during the preseason. So, after Melo’s reunion game in Syracuse and our triumphant return to the Garden, I decided the matchup with the Wizards would likely be the most exciting to attend. Patting myself on the back, BIG TIME.
On Monday the Wizards played without John Wall and Paul Pierce after news that they had lost Bradley Beal for 6-8 weeks to a broken hand. The result was something faaar removed from pretty as a full-strength Pelicans team pretty much moonwalked their way down the court, dunking all over the hapless Wiz and giving them that special kind of embarrassment that is so easily shrugged off during the preseason. While I wanted to see my Knicks get the W, I was happy to see Wall was back in the lineup for Washington. Dude is just way too explosive and too fun a player to miss.
Of course, this brought an immediate cringe when the starting lineups were announced and the Knicks had Shane Larkin and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the backcourt. The idea of Larkin defending Wall should be enough to terrify any NY fan and the reality was pretty much exactly the same. Wall led the league in generating corner 3 opportunities for his teammates last year and he dominated Larkin so completely that Wizard shooters were open pretty much constantly and RAINING 3s. (Otto Porter in particular took great advantage of this). The team as a whole shot 58% from deep against the Knicks, but that number was frighteningly closer to 80% during the first half. I should also mention that Wall could have scored something like 45 points if he wanted to, but played like a real floor general and used his penetration to set up open teammates and facilitate some pretty, pretty ball movement.
But everyone has to hit the bench sometime and the Knicks, god bless them, fought back and took advantage of those pauses. Melo had an amazing night, Shumpert played with a ton of confidence, and even Pablo looked a little bit more aggressive about taking (and making) some shots. Amare Stoudemire was perhaps the real question mark of the night as he seemed to vacillate between OH MY GOODNESS HOLY SHIT plays and terrible, woeful incompetence.
Still, letting another team feast from behind the arc on you is never a great recipe for winning ball games and the Knicks also seemed to have a lot of trouble defending the Wizards’ many bigs who would bully into the lane and flip in little teardrop shots. Dalembert recovered a little later in the game with some huge blocks on Nene but it was sad to see people like Kevin Seraphin (I booed him relentlessly during the game for some reason) and Damion James (?) float home easy deuces. That and the Knicks had an unsightly number of turnovers where they pretty much just dropped the ball or bobbled simple handoff passes. Only thing that kept us in the turnover battle was that the Wiz seemed to set at least five or six illegal screens.
Fast forward to the good stuff: WE WON THIS GAME!!
All I can say is that we hit some CLUTCH shots. I was shocked to see Cleanthony Early playing in crunch time over Shump, but he looked good moving the ball and playing within the system. JR hit some timely looks, Pablo finally took his 3s, and Melo… oh Melo, you beautiful man. Dude was everywhere in the 4th quarter going to the line and making his shots, knocking down the midrange, and ICING the game winner. Wall looked like the best player on the court for the majority of this game, but you can never really underestimate Melo’s ability to put the ball in the basket when it really counts. God love him. Also infinity props if he can manage to bring the top hat back. I think we’re far past due on that one.
Anyway, amazing first trip to MSG. On to the Raptors.