On Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the World’s Most Famous Arena, the Knicks (44-26) defeated the Memphis Grizzlies (47-24) 108-101. Box Score
J.R. Smith again led the Knicks in scoring with 35 points, including 12-of-13 from the line, to go with seven rebounds. J.R. is playing exceedingly well right now, there’s not much to quibble with. Smith also regularly torched Memphis’ Tony Allen, a player long regarded as one of the elite defenders in the game. Smith’s consecutive 30-point games off the bench were the first such games for a player off the bench since Al Harrington accomplished the feat in 2010.
Carmelo Anthony had something of a quiet night, with 22 points on 8-of-20 shooting. He also chipped in with seven rebounds and three assists.
Iman Shumpert had one of his best offensive games of the season, scoring 16 points and drilling 4-0f-6 three pointers. Shumpert scored 13 of his 16 points in the first quarter, and was noticeably not in the lineup down the stretch as Woodson opted for the steady hand of Jason Kidd.
The Grizzlies got 26 and 24 points, respectively, from Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless, but just three points from Zach Randolph who also sat for a significant portion of the fourth quarter in a move by head coach Lionel Hollins that seemed to trouble Randolph greatly. He didn’t look thrilled.
Jason Kidd scored just three points, but they might have been the most critical points of the game, a three from the corner late in the game that gave New York an eight-point cushion.
The Knicks are now 27-4 when J.R. Smith shoots 50% or better from the field.
New York has won six-straight games.
It’s funny, in the NBA, I just don’t get that bent out of shape over losing a big lead as long as you still win the game. If you wanted, I suppose you could try and pull something negative out of the fact the Knicks slowly let Memphis back in this game, with a one-time 30-point game somehow coming down to the wire, but I think that would be foolish in this instance.
For me, this was a pretty nice little statement win. It wasn’t just how well the Knicks played in the first half, though good Lord, did they play well. But there’s no way to really spin this one away. When you beat Orlando or Toronto or even a hobbled and reeling Celtics squad, there’s an instinct to dwell on the weakness of those opponents. But this was just a good solid win, against a really good team, where at times New York just made them look silly.
Naturally, we once again include that sort of astounding stat that the Knicks’ record is now 27-4 in games where J.R. Smith shoots over 50%. More and more, this season is becoming about J.R. Smith in such a fundamental way it’s no wonder he’s become such a divisive figure. The highs and lows of watching J.R. are almost dizzying, but the way he’s been playing over the past six games has been an absolute revelation. If he’s able to attack the basket and draw fouls, allowing him to rely a little less on the step-back jumper, the Knicks become an undeniably dangerous team. I understand the skepticism of those who just refuse to believe that such a transformation is really possible, but it’s also hard to argue that we’re not seeing it. We are. Can it really continue? I don’t know — my guess is J.R. doesn’t either — but we are seeing it. It is possible.
If we’re looking for things to question, and I suppose we always are, it was a little puzzling how little Shumpert played in the second half, considering his strong first half and the way Memphis was able to chip away at the lead. But Woodson opted to stick more with Kidd, who didn’t light up the stat sheet, but did make a few of his usual heady plays and, oh right, drilled the most important shot of the game.
New York committed a few silly fouls — though some on some dubious calls — down the stretch that had a good amount to do with the Griz’ ability to claw their way back into this thing. But ultimately the win was pulled out, a winning streak preserved and the Knicks head into Friday’s meeting with Charlotte feeling as confident as they have in months.
All in all, the Knicks find themselves some good Tyson Chandler news away from sitting about as pretty as they have all year. Who’da thunk it?
(Oh and sorry about the game thread…I pooched it)