The New York Knicks entered Thursday night's contest against the San Antonio Spurs as the only unbeaten team in the entire NBA, as they'd won each of their first five contests by at least 10 points. We all knew that they'd be tested against a 7-1 Spurs crew that is in first place out West, and New York's winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy before a late surge deep into the fourth quarter. The Knicks had lost nine straight games at AT&T Center before this matchup, but they kept their hot start to the year rolling in a 104-100 victory.
The Knicks came out in this one and found a lot of open shots early. They were moving the ball well, pushed the tempo, and made four of their first five shots from behind the arc. Unfortunately for New York, they allowed San Antonio to shoot just as efficiently from the field, which created for an offensive-minded and equally balanced first quarter.
San Antonio took a lead into halftime, but New York entered the third quarter with the pace they needed to make up the slight difference. Both teams saw a drop-off in scoring, but both also had incredible intensity that kept this game close heading into the final quarter.
The scrappy play from the third period continued into the fourth, and both teams struggled making shots early. The Spurs, however, were the ones who finally found momentum. A double-digit lead in the final quarter made it look as if the game was going to the home team, but the Knicks willed themselves into a hard-fought victory with their shooting and their defense late in the contest.
The Knicks' perfect season is still alive, and while this one may not have been as convincing, a 6-0 record is all that counts as Mike Woodson's squad heads to Memphis on Friday.
Raymond Felton opened this contest hot out of the gate. Going up against Tony Parker, he looked fantastic early, recording nine points on 3-of-5 shooting (2-of-2 from behind the arc) in the first quarter alone.
Felton led the Knicks in scoring at the half, but his presence was also seen in the distribution game. He was getting to the rim against Parker, which allowed him to find his open teammates against the collapsing defense.
From an efficiency standpoint, the Knicks point guard was fantastic. His jump shot was on, he controlled the ball well and he finished with a team-high 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting.
On the defensive end, Felton allowed Parker to go to work, which is part of the reason the Knicks got behind at one point. You would have liked to see Felton lock down against Parker, but on a night where Carmelo Anthony was invisible most of the way, you can't ask for much more from your floor general.
Jason Kidd looked good early in the game, disappeared in the middle and then found a way to bring his offense back to life halfway through the fourth quarter.
Scoring five points almost immediately, it looked as if Kidd might put together a good offensive performance. He was 2-of-3 in the first period and was playing well in transition alongside Raymond Felton.
When the 39-year-old saw the majority of his time in the second half, he proved that he can still affect a game without scoring. On offense, he was swinging the ball and setting up his teammates, and on defense, he was putting his quick hands and physical play on display.
Late in the game is when Kidd reminded us that his shot can still be deadly when left alone. He hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the final period and helped spark the run that got New York back in it. He also had a huge shot from deep range to give the Knicks a five-point lead.
The veteran point guard didn't have a huge game every second of the way, but his 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc was just what this team needed.
Ronnie Brewer played a solid offensive game early, but it was an unmemorable performance overall.
The majority of Brewer's scoring came in the first half, as his offensive opportunities were a byproduct of the frantic pace both teams put on display. He finished the game with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Brewer wasn't great on the defensive end, which is where he's mostly made a name for himself throughout the years. Kawhai Leonard had a good game, and there were multiple possessions in the first half where the San Antonio Spurs forward had wide-open looks.
Brewer played the fewest minutes of any starter on the Knicks, and while you would have liked to see his defense have a greater impact, he helped the Knicks come out with their hot start.
Seeing as how the Knicks won this game, Carmelo Anthony's performance is likely to be praised around the league as "unselfish." A victory helps public perception in Anthony's case, as a loss would have deemed him downright "inefficient."
Melo showed that he can limit his own shots when his teammates are shooting well. You love to see the Knicks scoring without Melo hoisting up shots, and that's exactly what happened in the first two quarters.
Anthony’s assists weren’t sky-high, but with the Spurs willing to double-team often, he showed that he can make the right decisions when it comes to finding his open teammates. Unfortunately for New York, his efficiency dropped instantly upon looking for his own shot.
The true area where Anthony shined was on the glass. He snatched up 12 rebounds on the night, and his energy was high when the team needed it.
If Anthony had scored his nine points in a game where he spent the entire time setting up his teammates, his performance would be looked at as one of the best of the night. That wasn't the case, though, as he simply couldn't buy a bucket throughout the contest.
Tyson Chandler was willing to play physical basketball in this one, and while he wasn't an integral part of the offense from start to finish, he made a difference both early and late.
The Knicks don't go into a game expecting Chandler to score double-digits, as that's not his role on the team. But his 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting—not to mention 4-of-6 from the foul line—was good enough to earn him praise.
Chandler's performance will be perceived a success because of his intensity on the court. His willingness to scrap was a big part of what helped the New York Knicks rally back, and his put-back slam late in the game helped seal the deal.
Chandler was one of many Knicks who fell off the grid in the third quarter, but he was also one of the performers who recovered at the end. His efficiency made him a plus-eight in the plus-minus category, which was the highest of any player on the court Thursday night.
In typical J.R. Smith fashion, the sixth man for the New York Knicks was looking for his own shot all game. That concept has been a catalyst for inconsistency in the past, as he’s never been the most reliable player, but you don’t mind seeing the aggression when his shot is falling early.
Smith made three of his first five attempts, and the most impressive part about it was that not one of them was a three-pointer. He was attacking the paint, he was scoring in the mid-range game and he was doing it all from the get-go.
Unfortunately, that inconsistency hit after halftime, as he seemingly lost the touch entering the third quarter. He was forcing shots, dribbling way too much and he missed every shot he took in the third period.
He would eventually finish with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting, which aren't bad numbers by any means; but it's a shame that such a good first half was nearly negated by poor decision-making.
The New York Knicks bench had a good game overall. In the first half alone, the team’s second unit had 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and they were a part of the group scoring at a fast pace.
J.R. Smith may be the sixth man in New York, but it was Rasheed Wallace who came out and helped spread the floor. When Carmelo Anthony was looking to get others involved in the first half, Wallace took advantage. He was 3-of-5 early, including 2-of-2 from behind the three-point line.
The second half saw both Wallace and Smith slow down, and neither Steve Novak nor Pablo Prigioni stepped up in their places. Smith would eventually put together a decent finish, but it was slightly tarnished by a stretch of poor decisions.
The reserves scored a total of 34 points on the contest, and while the two halves somewhat canceled each other out, there was more good than bad from the bench in the win.