Though you wouldn't have guessed it from the first couple minutes of this Bobcats vs. Knicks rematch, New York learned a major lesson from the previous game, exerting much more effort and focus against Charlotte, while the Bobcats fought valiantly to overcome the Knicks' two star players.
Featuring a bizarre lineup starting power forward Tyrus Thomas at small forward, the Bobcats looked like they were just picking up where they left off on the Knicks from their last meeting. The Knicks spotted Charlotte 10 points, and the Bobcats still squandered the lead, letting the Knicks get easy baskets on Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire pick and rolls. The odd frontcourt proved to be an error as Tyrus Thomas is not a small forward and can't create his own offense at that position. And Gana Diop played like Gana Diop, at one point dribbling the basketball looking like how most people dribble a football. He had a particularly bad sequence where he misread a pick and roll, letting Chandler into the paint, who then found a cutting Iman Shumpert for an easy two. And on the offensive end he made a bad attempt at being a point-center, trying to find Gerald Henderson on a backdoor cut, but instead finding Landry Fields' back.
The Knicks hardly looked dominating as the Bobcats stemmed New York's run when they needed buckets to keep the Knicks' lead within reach. But this Knicks team was not the same as last week. They were not settling for long twos and threes, but attacked the Bobcats' interior defense. The Bobcats didn't make it easy, but Amar'e Stoudemire drew plenty of fouls for the most efficient shot in basketball - free throws.
As the benches rolled out onto the hardwood, the Bobcats struggled. D.J. White once again was all efficiency, all of the time, but the Knicks' backup squad brought more defensive intensity than last time, contesting shots well. Surprisingly, Byron Mullens was held scoreless in the first half, and he also showed some poor rebounding and mediocre defensive instincts. As the half wound down, the game turned sloppy with turnovers abound and sketchy transition offense. Kemba Walker endeavored to run the offense, finding an assist to Diaw and White, but turned the ball over as well. Diaw again looked like the best player in New York, hitting shots from just about everywhere, rebounding and doing some dishing, too. Still, the Bobcats went into the break down 50-45.
The third quarter was a battle, with the Knicks putting the heat on the Bobcats on both sides of the floor. Charlotte took poor one-on-one well-contested shots while the Knicks pushed the rock inside the paint, finding Tyson Chandler on cuts. As the Bobcats compensated, Stoudemire took advantage of White giving him space for midrange shots. A double-digit deficit developed for Charlotte, as the Knicks' defense forced turnovers, played good help and man defense. The Bobcats bench played better, but still couldn't find easy shots with the Knicks closing off the paint and getting the hands up on defense. Walker had a nice assist to Mullens on a pick and roll, but still couldn't find his own shooting touch. Luckily, the Knicks couldn't take advantage, and held only a seven-point lead with a quarter remaining.
Both offenses couldn't grasp a rhythm in the beginning of the fourth. The Bobcats fought to stay in the game, with Kemba hitting a trey and drawing some fouls, cutting the Knick lead to three. Then New York started moving the ball around and with the Bobcats rotating slowly, took advantage in the paint, as teams tend to do against this Bobcats team. Charlotte foundered for a while against a surprisingly-focused Knicks team forced questionable shot selection. Yet, New York couldn't keep the lead, piddling away their offensive opportunities on poor ball movement with the Bobcats finding more room in the paint and Augustin tying the game on a three, despite a rough shooting night.
After a Knicks timeout, Carmelo Anthony went to work with a little over two minutes remaining. He was nowhere near dominant, just simply outscoring the Bobcats, ending with eight of New York's last nine points. Landry Fields put the Knicks up by four with 13 seconds remaining, seemingly a nail in the coffin, but Augustin drained a miraculous corner three-ball after being trapped in the corner. Down one, the Bobcats fouled Carmelo Anthony, who drilled both shots from the charity stripe. With time winding down, the Bobcats pushed the ball upcourt. New York mistakenly doubled Diaw around halfcourt, giving Augustin an open look at a three to tie the game, but it caromed off the rim into Anthony's grasp. The Bobcats fouled in a futile attempt to refuse to say die, but there wasn't nearly enough time and the Knicks escaped with a win at home.
In The Bonus
- Tyson Chandler had 20 points (ON EIGHT FGA). And 13 rebounds. And 3 blocks. And 3 steals. And an assist. That's why I said the Bobcats would have to pick their poison with Chandler. He was a terror on the pick and roll for the Bobcats' defense. The Bobcats just didn't have the size, strength or mobility at center to defend him.
- Bismack Biyombo played a whopping four minutes tonight, recording zero stats (aka a four trillion). I know he's not good right now. But how can anyone expect him to develop if he doesn't get to see the floor in decent minutes?
- Tyrus Thomas was, generally speaking, pretty blergh out there. He had a couple nice blocks, but the 'Tyrus Thomas As A Small Forward' was more failure than success. While his defense on Anthony was nothing more than humdrum, he was more or less a mess on offense.
- Gerald Henderson was pretty quiet against Landry Fields, hitting some midrange jumpers here and there and finding his way inside on a few occasions against a tougher Knicks defense.
- Iman Shumpert was very good in a quiet way. He shot pretty well, dropping 16 points on 13 shots, but what impressed me was his defense on Augustin and Walker, neither of whom found their shooting touch on point in this game.