The Knicks went on an easy little stroll Sunday afternoon at the Garden and not even Jrue Holiday‘s spot-on mimicking act of Carmelo Anthony could spoil the ride in a 100-84 win over Philly. Holiday was there more often than not to serve as the counter to a big play by the Knicks, but he was just one guy – albeit, one guy whose 5-of-6 shooting from deep helped Philly shoot better from behind the line than it did overall. Thing was, he was always shooting from behind and without much help. The last time Philly led was at 2-0, and even as Holiday was going for 27 points – including a 26-footer right in Kurt Thomas‘ mug in a stretch where he scored or assisted on 11 of Philly’s 13 points to start the fourth – ‘Melo (27 points) and J.R. Smith were ready to respond. Smith has made no bones about his displeasure coming off the bench, but outside of a couple whipped passes gone awry when he was running point in the third quarter, he was on point by not trying to do too much en route to 20 points. He also had nine boards and even if easily half came off uncontested boards on shots in transition, Smith still made the effort to get under the hoop (it hasn’t always been a 94-foot game with J.R.). It’s always tricky to get inside the mind of J.R., but he had a perfect sense of the game’s flow. When Steve Novak dropped him a pass in the corner, he flushed it for a 17-point lead, not trying to cut through three guys baseline to the rim instead. The next play after a timeout, knowing he was hot, he put a pretty spin move past Evan Turner – second only to ‘Melo’s second-quarter spin-cycle on Thad Young that left him swinging at air – that barely rolled off the rim. How heavy was the respect for Smith’s hot hand? Even with ‘Melo and Jason Kidd on the floor in the fourth, Smith was the primary shot-taker and ballhandler in about a six-minute stretch. The MSG crowd was getting drunk with power, though. Up only 11 with four minutes left – and with the threat of Holiday dropping from 23 feet every possession a real possibility – the fans were yelling for Rasheed Wallace, the NBA’s newest victory cigar. He posted and toasted Royal Ivey for his first turnaround bucket, then hit Pablo Prigioni for a pretty dime to repay the fans. … One thing the Knicks could have done without was seeing ‘Melo hop over the Knicks bench into the front row for a loose ball with New York up double-digits. We literally respect the hustle, but the Knicks are only so deep. … There was a brief flashback to 2004 in the second quarter of Phoenix-Orlando when the Suns’ Jermaine O’Neal stuffed Nikola Vucevic twice in a row, a stand that led to an outlet to Sebastian Telfair and a nice, defender-dodging layup by Bassy. Then O’Neal ceded the paint to Luis Scola (24 points), who tore up Josh McRoberts with three straight hoops in the first half. It turned out neither O’Neal nor Scola nor Big Baby (22 points, eight boards and five dimes) were the stories in the second half of the Magic’s 115-94 win, when the battle for Eastern Europe took over. Vucevic (18 points and 13 boards – six offensive) and Marcin Gortat (14 points and 11 boards) went blow for blow. Not to be overlooked but J.J. Redick went straight-up Midas late in the fourth, capping his 24-point night with a bank three after hitting his defender in mid-air in the final three minutes. … Hit the jump to hear about the guard play in OKC-Atlanta. …
Jeff Teague (16 points) didn’t get an enormous dunk on Houston to count because of a charge a few nights back, but his filthy slam on Kevin Durant (22, 12 boards and eight dimes) was very much a counting, and top-10 worthy, bucket. It was more Kevin Martin‘s fault than KD’s, when Martin watched his man, Kyle Korver, fall on the baseline and forgot to turn around. KD made the rotation late and got stuck on a poster because of it. That’s no way to treat your new superstar teammate. The next time down, Teague went for a second helping until Serge Ibaka blew up the floater, which led to whip-whip-whip ball movement and a Martin triple in the corner in the first half’s final minute. That was his 22nd point in the first half – yeah, he’s been watching Twitter after the Harden trade, too – and that is how you win over your teammates (he finished with 28). Atlanta would prevail in the end though, 104-95, thanks to Al Horford‘s 23 points and 12 boards and three buckets in the fourth quarter. That was two more than Durant and Martin made in the final frame combined. … This was the game the Lakers could not lose. Moving to 0-4 against Detroit would have been disaster, but Dwight Howard‘s 15 points in the first 16 minutes paved the way to his 28 points in an easy 108-79 win over the Pistons. The fast breaks and points off turnovers were nearly identical, but the plus-22 advantage by L.A. in the paint, all because of Howard, crippled Detroit. Not a single starter scored in double figures for Detroit, and the promise of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond was sapped instantly in the face of Howard and Pau Gasol (14 points). When Jonas Jerebko leads you in scoring (he went for 18 points), you’re gonna have a bad time. … Once J.J. Barea got hurt, Minnesota’s pace was thrown off in Toronto’s 105-86 win over the T-Wolves. He was the spark plug in Minny’s game Friday, but Brandon Roy (four points, five TOs) played like a man running in place and likewise, the T-Wolves went nowhere. How mad can the Raptors fans be that they were shunned by fan favorite Steve Nash for the Lakers? Kyle Lowry (22 points, seven boards, five assists) looks like a much better option at this point. When Jose Calderon and Lowry are on the floor together, they look good. But then too, why shake anything up between Lowry and DeMar DeRozan? The two combined for 44 points. … We’re out like L.A. panic.
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