Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
J.R. Smith sank the Bobcats with a last second fadeaway jumper in the face of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but didn't it feel kind of like the Bobcats should have won?
With a touch over three seconds remaining in regulation, the Knicks inbounded the ball to J.R. Smith, he of grand wild shot attempts that most sane human beings would rarely take and never, ever make. The Knicks ran him on an isolation from about the three point line at center court. He tried driving left but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stuck on him like shame after a night you don't remember. Kidd-Gilchrist gave him no space to get a step closer to the basket, making deftly agile movements to block his path.
The Knicks had turned around a second-half struggle and put up 6-0 run to tie the Bobcats as time wound down. Their shooting had been based on mostly bad decisions but with a couple minutes remaining, recovered their ability to get into the paint and converted good shots.
This possession by J.R. Smith did not seem to be heading in the direction of the "good shot" category. He put the flourish on the panic shot by pulling a stepback move. Kidd-Gilchrist was right there with him.
But as Shakespeare wrote, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Good thing for Knicks fans that Smith doesn't think when given carte blanche with the ball.
And so he released the fade-away jumper maybe an inch above Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's fingertips. Splash. Game over. There really wasn't anything Kidd-Gilchrist could have done; it was just an amazing shot.
As I sat with my buddy Jamie, who's covered the Knicks for the NY Times, absorbing MSG's postmortem while looking at the statistics, we both came to the conclusion "Jeez, the Bobcats really should have won that game."
All the indicators were there. Charlotte shot better percentages from everywhere. They got to the free throw line more. They walloped New York in the paint 52-40. Their bench handled the Knicks', outscoring them 45-33. They outran them, beating them 23-8 in fast break points. They handedly outrebounded the Knicks both on offense and defense. They even had more assists.
Unfortunately - and I hate to break this to everyone - but the Bobcats really shouldn't have won that game, in retrospect.
You cannot argue the Bobcats did not play fantastic -- after the previous game two nights ago went to overtime, no less -- and yet the Knicks deserve credit for hanging tight and fighting for a win that felt like wiping my face with a cheese grater in the last couple minutes.
New York certainly seemed to play like they wanted to lose for a good bit, though. They had great success with Tyson Chandler on the pick and roll for much of the game, but fell in love with their three-pointers, taking 22 in the second half. The Bobcats took 16 threes total on the night. New York was getting OK looks at these shots, but weren't making them. But gosh dang it, they were going to keep trying!
Without Tyson Chandler in the paint to stretch the defense from inside out, the Knicks seemed content to play perimeter offensive basketball. The Bobcats' defensive rotations were madness and confusion, but also seemed to confuse the Knicks as well, who didn't pass the ball inside much. Carmelo Anthony got in his rhythm early and found his jumpshot falling, but then was disrupted in the second half by Gerald Henderson's defense. Near the end of the game, he flew into his bench as he chased a loose ball. He was taken to the locker room with a laceration on his finger that required six stitches and did not return.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats were executing extremely well against a top team in the East. They ran after misses and turnovers and punished the Knicks' interior defense, which was shockingly ineffective for much of the night even with Chandler. Kemba Walker was electric, finishing at the rim well for 25 points and dishing out 11 assists while turning the ball over only once. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had one of his better scoring games, showing his ability to get to the rim both in transition and dribble-drive situations. They were conservative with three pointer selection this time around, with Mullens only taking one attempt, Ben Gordon continuing his hot streak (3-5 from three tonight) and Gerald Henderson hitting two treys, which is really encouraging from him.
By all reasons of logic, the Bobcats were en route to breaking their four-game skid. But New York refused to let the Bobcats sneak out of their reach.
The Knicks clamped down on their interior defense and took away the paint especially in the fourth. For a while, it didn't seem to matter. Gerald Henderson was knocking down jumpshots from a variety of distances to keep New York at bay. By rotating better on defense, the Knicks also forced the Bobcats into 8 turnovers in the second half, twice as much as the first half. Some of these, especially late, were unforced. And this is where the difference came tonight: The Knicks took nine more shots tonight and even with missing a ton of threes, they added scoring weight which made up for missing more shots than the Bobcats did and not getting to the free throw line as much.
I'm not sure I can say this enough, but such is the territory of a young team. The lineups they had on the floor late was a combination of these six players: Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson, Ben Gordon, Jeffery Taylor or Bismack Biyombo. The average age of them is just under 23. With youth is a lack of experience, and they often had to scrap plays and just get what offense they could or be forced into turnovers.
And thus the Knicks climbed out of their shallow grave despite looking like dog meat to earn their victory as the Bobcats lost their grip on a lead late in the game once again.
Que sera, sera, y'all. The Knicks may be banged up, but they're not untalented or inexperienced. Far from it - players like Raymond Felton knew to start pushing the ball inside late and helped the Knicks make their comeback. I can't say I see any shame in losing this game. The Bobcats just played an overtime game a couple nights ago and competed hard with a now 13-4 Knicks squad. Two close winnable games against one decent young team and one strong veteran team that both went down to the wire all in a few days. It may not be a win, but I'll take it.
Here's your link to the Knicks' blog, Posting and Toasting