The Knicks provided the Madison Square Garden crowd with a thrilling overtime win on Wednesday night, despite the early woeful play by their dynamic duo of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Because both were playing through nagging injuries, their less-than-stellar start could be forgiven. But there was no quarter asked as they fought through a bevy of obstacles; and with the auspicious abetting of Robin Lopez and Derrick Williams, were able steal a victory.
The outlook looked grim in the first half. Despite some smooth early hoopin’ from Arron Aflallo, and deft left hand hook-shooting by Lopez, the Knicks were unable to gain ground on the constant deficit. The Knicks were unwilling or unable to defend the Jazz. Rodney Hood was torching Jose Calderon off the dribble, and Arron Afflalo’s attempts at guarding him were equally futile, with Hood hitting five three-balls on his road to 29 points. After missing his first three shots, Gordon Hayward also got it going. Coming off a 33 point performance on Monday, Hayward was not lacking confidence; working on Anthony and scoring 27 points.
The Knicks were also suffering from a staggering lack of bench scoring and free throws. In fact, one play in particular emblemized these dire straights. In the first minute of the second quarter, Derrick Williams went up for a layup and was hammered by a defender in mid-flight. He made the basket and converted the three-point play at the line. Those were the only bench points AND the only free throw attempted until the final three minutes of the third quarter. Ironically, it may have been the free throw disparity that galvanized the Garden later on.
In a game that felt like a losing ticket, the Knicks faithful were raring for any reason to rise. But in contrast of the third’s sleepy lulls; in the fourth quarter, the crescendo could begin.
After a pair of putbacks by Lopez and a buttery shot by Afflalo, the Knicks had clawed to within six. But a ticky-tack foul call on Afflalo the next possession was the tipping point for the Garden crowd. An extemporaneous and harmonious chorus bellowed from the stands; binding them as they trilled a demeaning ode to the villainy of the presiding officials. And in their unified proclamation of “these ref’s suck!”, the New Yorkers realized that they had become whole once more.
The ref’s were frazzled, and Derrick Williams was immediately awarded a make-up call. He hit both free throws making it a four-point game, forcing a Jazz timeout. The crowd was ready to be impressed. At this point, Jets quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick storms the court and begins spiraling T-shirts into the crowd. Simultaneously, Porzingis and Anthony raised from their bench slumber to check into the game. After Porzingis makes it a 3 point game with a pair of free throws, Anthony drives baseline and drops off a gorgeous dime to Williams who finished with an emphatic jam. Not done being hype, Melo finally gives the Knicks the lead on the next possession, driving and skying for a powerful two-handed dunk.
The Knicks slowly increased their margin but were nagged by the three-point shooting prowess of the Jazz. The Knicks were in the drivers seat though, as Porzingis’ foul shots put the team up three, with nine seconds left in the game. In a truly bizarre blunder, Porzingis fouled Gordon Hayward as he shot a three with only two seconds left in the game. Hayward made all three foul shots to tie the game and send it to overtime.
With both teams coming off of overtime games on Monday, overtime was likely to be a war of attrition. The Knicks, not to be denied for their sixth straight home win, utilized the proper strategy for such a stamina based battle; make them run.
The Knicks utilized spacing to great effect on the offensive end. This resulted in Anthony finding open teammates crosscourt for open threes on three separate occasions. The final nail was also an impressive display of endurance. With 17 seconds left in overtime, Lopez’ shot ricocheted off the rim resulting in a rebound battle between Derrick Williams and Rudy Gobert. Both players jumped and batted the ball up in the air between them a total of five times. Williams finally corralled the rock, went up for a layup and fought through an arm in his face, scoring and putting the knicks up five with the converted foul shot. The effort set off the Garden crowd and almost caused Melo to give himself an ulcer in his euphoric, fist-pumping exuberance.
– Robin Lopez’ contribution cannot be emphasized enough. His left-hand hook shot was accurate and unblockable. His defense was stalwart. 22pts, 11-14 shooting, and 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards.
– Kristaps Porzingis didn’t have a point until late in the second, but still ended up with 16 points.
– Derrick Williams was a hero tonight, giving the Knicks basically their only scoring off the bench. When he made that extra effort play at the end of overtime, the entire MSG crowd chanted his name as he took his free throws and iced the game. 6-13, 18 pts.
– Carmelo Anthony displayed a lot of leadership tonight to keep his team in this one. His willingness to pass is giving his teammates confidence. 9 assists, 13-20, 30 pts.