“I used to look up at people and say Damn, that’s a lot of points.”
Carmelo said this in his postgame interview last night after becoming the 40th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points. (He also repeatedly referred to the female reporter interviewing him as “man”, but this may be just how he speaks). Melo hit that upper echelon mark with a smooth looking 3 pointer midway through the first quarter against Charlotte en route to 28 points in the game on 12-22 shooting. Considering this is largely the same team that Melo dropped 62 on last year, he could’ve moved up another couple of spots on that history list if he was feeling particularly ball-hoggy. As it stands, Melo’s definitely gonna keep moving up this; there are only 8 active players ahead of him. If he averages around 25 a night then this season alone will see him jump up to #30, passing legends like Gary Payton and Larry Bird.
On to the game. This one was a friggin’ nail biter and definitely one of those close games the Knicks would’ve lost last year. As it stands, they went really far out of their way to hand the game to Charlotte who just couldn’t capitalize. Chief among these foot-shootings (I need a fun word to express shooting yourself in the foot, any suggestions?) was wasting two possessions in the final minute of the game: first isolating Melo with only 4 seconds on the clock and then Shumpert not having a single open Knick to pass to and hoisting up a contested 3. When you consider that we got one of those extra possessions up 2 points because Charlotte failed to inbound the basketball on the side, it’s almost a sin that we didn’t come away with any scoring on those trips. (That inbound play was also CLOSE AS HELL. I really thought they got it in, we got rullly lucky).
Once again, the triangle looked great to start the game and the Knicks jumped out to a 15 point lead early in the second quarter. A lot of this had to do with Sam Dalembert bottling up Charlotte’s leading scorer from last year Al Jefferson and exposing how miserable of a shooting team the Hornets are. Kemba Walker signed his shiny new 4 year $48 million contract and had some nice game-tying/winning shots against Milwaukee to start the season, but he’s more of a slasher than a jump shooter. When you combine that with Lance’s slashing and Kidd-Gilchrist’s horrendous jump-shot form, this team is going to go through some ice cold stretches.
Of course, then Charlotte goes on a crazy run in the second quarter when Dalembert hits the bench and Jefferson can just feast away on the smaller, less defensively-minded Amare. Gary Neal also provided a nice sparkplug scoring outburst for the Hornets and brought his team to within 2 at halftime. The person who didn’t explode was Stephenson, which was shocking to me as he traditionally murders the Knicks (he’s Brooklyn-born, one of the city’s street ball legends, and loves playing in the Garden). He did finish dangerously close to a triple-double but he never really dominated the game and only had 14 points on the night.
This game was close as hell for the entire second half. Mike Breen commented at one point that there had been 20 lead changes as neither team seemed able to pull more than 3 points away. Melo had a very efficient night, including hitting a miracle three pointer from about 32 feet away as the shotclock expired, but I was more impressed with some of the reserves. Amare in particular looks like a great scoring threat off the bench and having him on the court when Melo sits is going to go a long way towards always having a dominant scorer out there. STAT was able to bull his way to the line, but has to work on cashing in once there; he shot 3-5 from the stripe, but the whole team was GARBAGE and finished at around 58%. The other player I loved watching was Shane Larkin who continues to impress as the Knicks de facto starting PG. He showed off a much more polished jump shot, which has the possibility of becoming a serious threat as he has the speed to create separation from his man.
Mostly, though, we were lucky to win this one and the fact that we gave up a 15 point lead in about 4 or 5 minutes is not encouraging. The Hornets looked miserable for stretches of this game and the Knicks are going to need to work on putting teams away when they’re down. I don’t think my heart can survive a whole season of these down-to-the-wire finishes.
John Wall and the Wiz coming up next. See you then.