WHAT IT MEANS: With a lot of talk coming into tonight saying that Denver got the better end of the Carmelo Anthony trade, Melo almost silenced many of the critics with his late-game heroics. He hit the game-tying field goal with one second remaining in the fourth quarter and had a few key buckets in the first and second overtimes. But led by former Knicks Danilo Gallinari (a game-high 37 points and 11 rebounds) and Timofey Mozgov (16 points and seven rebounds), Melo and his men fell short in their first overtime game of the season, 119-114. It was New York's sixth straight loss and Denver's fourth straight win on the road.
TURNING POINTS: Initially, Bill Walker fueled the Knicks to a 39-28 lead early in the second quarter, connecting on three 3-pointers and a one-hand dunk in less than the first four minutes of the period. That was the kind of points separation the Knicks had for most of the game, until Nuggets sixth man Al Harrington scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and made it a two-point game. Melo had his moments at the end of the fourth quarter, and in the first and second overtimes, but the Nuggets played better team basketball to come away with the victory. In fact, Denver's entire starting five scored in double figures.
STAT, WHERE YA AT?: Amare Stoudemire didn't score from 9:02 left in the first quarter until 8:40 remaining in the third. While Stoudemire had 11 rebounds tonight, he had one of his lowest point totals of the season (12 points). Give credit to the Nuggets' bigs Nene and Mozgov for defending him well, but STAT has to learn how to mix up his moves a little bit going to the basket. Unfortunately, that's never really been his forte. Also, he has to control his handle better driving through the lane. He had four turnovers tonight. On defense, he just has to care and be more aware sometimes. A few times Nene or Mozgov beat him down the court for the fastbreak jam, or from the backside in halfcourt sets. That's also on Tyson Chandler. They have to work together better to protect the paint.
FILM STUDIES: 1.) A little too much Melo, once again. Out of the six made field goals the Knicks had in the first and second overtimes, Melo had four of them. 2.) Offensive rebounding. Heading into the third quarter, the Nuggets had 10 second-chance points, while the Knicks only had four. 3.) Watching out for backdoor cuts. The Knicks got caught looking from the backside, and the stats don't lie. Through three periods, the Nuggets had 48 points in the paint, while the Knicks had only 26.
A FEW POSITIVES: 1.) Iman Shumpert's first-half play. All season long, opposing point guards have outplayed either Shumpert, Toney Douglas or Mike Bibby. Tonight, the rookie got the better half of his matchup with Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson. Through two quarters, Shumpert had 11 points, six assists and only one turnover. His effective penetrating and dishing led to the team shooting 51.1 percent from the field in the first half. Shumpert only had seven points and one assist the rest of the game, but he should look back on that first half and build on it.
2.) Landry Fields' up-tempo game. That's where he excels, just like in the first half of the 2010-11 season before the Anthony trade. When the team pushes, Fields runs the wing well and finishes with strength. He also didn't hesitate in halfcourt sets, which he's been doing this season. He attacked the lane and found the open man, finishing with five assists. He also had 18 points.
3.) The Knicks have wanted Douglas to be their main spark off the bench, but he hasn't been that consistently this season. He's struggled to find his outside touch, and coming into tonight he had shot 16.7 percent in the past two games. So the second unit's second in command, Walker, decided to step up his actions. After averaging 1.5 points through the past four games, he scored a season-high 15 tonight on 5-for-6 shooting (3-for-4 from downtown) in only 11 minutes. The team needed early scoring badly with Anthony shooting poorly at the time. Douglas improved slightly tonight, finishing with 11 points, but he shot 3-for-9 from beyond the arc.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Bobcats, who arguably played their best basketball of the season against the Knicks on Jan. 4, in a 118-110 win. But that's about it. The Bobcats, who face the Knicks at their place on Jan. 24, are 3-12 on the season, and have lost two in a row and are sinking fast. With a more competitive showing against the Nuggets under their belt, and two days off, the Knicks should have the Bobcats chasing them from behind.
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