Written by William Lee
The New York Knicks fall short on a comeback from an 18 point first half deficit to the “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies, losing 98-93 in their first game back from the All Star break.
In the first half it looked like the New York Knicks were still in vacation mode, getting off to a slow start, just content on jacking up threes. Knicks were a goose egg in the first half on their nine three-point attempts, and shot a dismal 34.1% overall from the field. As great as Carmelo Anthony was in the All Star game, breaking the record for made threes in the mid-season classic exhibition game with eight made threes Sunday night. Anthony like the rest of the Knicks was still in vacation mode as well, missing his first seven attempts from the field. Anthony got semi on track again afterwards, going 8/15 the rest of the way finishing with 22 points on an ineffective 22 attempts.
On the other end New York made the Memphis Grizzles with the nickname “Grit and Grind” look like they were an offensive juggernaut scoring 50 points, shooting over 50% from the field. The Grizzles were unselfish, sharing the basketball, collecting 14 assist on 21 made field goals in the first half, in which they had every player scoring at least a point. This is the same Memphis team that is the fourth lowest scoring team in the league at 94.7 points per game.
The Knicks started the second half trailing 52-37, as bad as they had played in the first half, that was how well they played the second half. New York stormed out to a 14-4 run to start to the third quarter to get within one possession four minutes into the second half. New York amped up their defensive intensity, forcing Memphis to shot 35% from the field, even causing a 24 second violation. The rest of the quarter though the Grizzlies were able to keep the Knicks at arm’s length, as Anthony got it to a one possession game again at the end of the third quarter, knocking down a jump shot, making it 66-64.
14 seconds into the fourth quarter the Knicks finally tied the game up at 66, but it would be short-lived as the Grizzlies responded with a mini 6-0 run to go ahead 72-66, with a little over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. With Memphis looking to further the gap, Tim Hardaway Jr. completed a four point play, which really got the Knicks pumped up, and back into the game. Pablo Prigioni would steals ball from Mike Conley, but then makes a terrible pass that gets intercepted when New York had a four on one advantage on the break, which then turns around and leads to a Mike Miller three the other way, making it 75-70.
Following an Anthony three, Hardaway Jr. would hit another three to tie the game up again at 76. The Knicks went ahead on an Anthony step back jump shot 78-76, and would lead by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter. Hardaway Jr. carried the Knicks in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his game high 23 points in the final period. Mike Conley would answer, and came up big in crunch time, scoring nine of the last 18 points Memphis scored to finish the game, leading the Grizzlies to a hard fought victory over the lowly New York Knicks. The Knicks had no answers for Conley as he scored 22 points Tuesday night, getting into the lane constantly with his dribble penetration. The only way the Knicks stopped him, was to foul him, sending Conley to the line to attempt 12 free throws.
There won’t be much rest for the Knicks as they need to head back to the All Star destination New Orleans to face the Pelicans Wednesday night. An interesting development to keep an eye on, the Grizzlies put power forward Zach Randolph to guard Iman Shumpert on several occasions. This seemed reminiscent of what the Indiana Pacers did in the Playoffs last year, when they used their power forward David West to guard Shumpert. This works because Shumpert almost never looks to attack the rim, and when he does he isn’t a great finisher, and Shumpert is also not deadly from beyond the arc, so teams are content with him firing away at a 35.8% clip this season. This should be a sign to Shumpert that opposing teams are disrespecting his offensive game, when they put a big on someone as athletically gifted as Iman Shumpert is. Another interesting note is that as great as Tim Hardaway Jr. was in the game, scoring 14 points in the fourth, he has the worst +/- of any player in the game with a -13. Another interesting note, well not really a note, just a complaint really, is that Prigioni literally never truly contest shots. For example in the crucial moment where Hardaway Jr. knocked down a three to give the Knicks a two point lead with a minute left. The very next possession the ball would swing around to Mike Miller, Prigioni was the close out man on the shot. Prigioni would never actually jump to contest a jump shot, all he really does is show his hand, which by the time an opponent elevates for his shot, the hand is literally contesting nothing…