If I told you New York Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony finished a game with nine points, three assists, and two turnovers on 3-of-12 shooting, one would assume the Knicks would have probably been blown out.
That’s why that is an assumption, in the past the Knicks might have been defeated with a low performance from “Melo”, but on Thursday in the AT&T Center, Raymond Felton (25 points), J.R. Smith (17 points), and Jason Kidd (14 points) picked up the scoring load for Melo as the Knicks defeated the Spurs 104-100 to remain the NBA’s only undefeated team at 6-0.
The Spurs had built a 12-point lead with 7:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, but you know how your car can run out of gas? Well that happened to the Spurs on Thursday night.
“There’s a reason why they’re 5-0,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the game, “they played well enough to win, but we ran out of gas. The guys really busted their butts, I was proud of them, but they just didn’t have enough left in the tank after that road trip.”
Tiago Splitter began the fourth with a magnificent start of 13 straight points for his team, but once he stopped scoring, the Knicks took control. Tony Parker was having a good night for three quarter, but he too ran out of gas in the fourth.
“Tony was exhausted,” said Popovich, “he played great with 12 assists and no turnovers, but we got tired, we definitely got tired trying to guard those guys. With turnovers, we lost our momentum, they gained the momentum.”
Here’s the rundown.
The 4-Quarter Slim Down
First quarter: The first quarter was a hot shooting affair as the Spurs and Knicks both shot over 53% in the quarter and each scored over 30 points. After one, the Spurs trailed the Knicks 33-31.Kawhi Leonard had his own run in the middle of the first quarter, while he ended the first with 10 points. Tim Duncan and Danny Green also added six points apiece in the first.
Second quarter: The Spurs’ defense had a slight impact in the second quarter as they held the Knicks to 22 points while Parker sparked the offense with a 28-point quarter. Danny Green connected on a 3-pointer just before the half ended and a Jason Kidd hand in his face to give the Spurs a 57-55 lead at half. San Antonio shot 53% in the first half, while the Knicks shot 50%.
Third quarter: Defense and some sloppy play came from both teams in the third quarter as both teams scored less than 20 points in the quarter. At the end of three, the Spurs were leading 76-72 by outscoring the Knicks 19-17 in the quarter, but the Spurs were up to nine turnovers, most of those coming in the third. The Spurs were shooting 48% while the Knicks were shooting 42% after three.
Fourth quarter: For five minutes of the fourth quarter, Splitter dominated the Knicks literally by himself. Splitter scored the Spurs’ first 13 points of the quarter to give the Spurs their biggest lead of the game 89-77. But then, the Spurs imploded down the stretch as the Knicks outscored them 20-6 to take a two-point lead after an open Smith 3-pointer. The Spurs ran out of gas and the Knicks’ defense and offense continued to thrive as they ended up outscoring the Spurs 27-11 to close out the game for the 104-100 win.
Out of the starting five: All four of the Spurs starters, aside from Blair, had a good first half as Duncan ended the half with 10 points and six rebounds, Parker had 10 points and six assists, Leonard had 10 points, and Green ended with nine points. Though Parker finished with 19 points, 12 assists, and no turnovers, he couldn’t produce in the fourth quarter as he began to run out of gas according to coach Popovich. After the game, Parker said there weren’t any excuses, but he did say that his normal easy shots he takes, usually go in, and most were short in the fourth quarter. Leonard finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, but his defense was key in limiting Anthony to nine points.
“Kawhi’s just learning how to guard somebody who is just as amazing as Carmelo,” said Popovich after the game. “I thought Jack (Jackson) did an unbelievable job (as well).”
Duncan finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He said he too was proud of the team’s effort but he also gave credit to the Knicks for locking down on defense and really limiting the Spurs from holding their lead.
Off the bench: Stephen Jackson was hitting his “trill” 3-pointer in the first half as he ended with seven points by halftime, and Patty Mills gave efficient minutes with five points at half. Manu Ginobili finished with 12 points, but in the final two minutes, he waved to be pulled out of the game as he too looked exhausted. Jackson finished with 10 points, but Jackson also was limited in the fourth after expending most of his energy in the third quarter. Splitter was a force early in the fourth quarter, and Duncan and Parker said Splitter is beginning to understand his role more frequently. Duncan specifically said Splitter and Ginobili have become a productive combination when playing together.
Player of the game: Raymond Felton – Felton was relentless throughout the game. He began by hitting his outside shots, but throughout the game, he continued to attack the paint and slowly break down the Spurs’ defense. Felton finished with 25 points, seven assists, and got to the foul line three times. Parker said he had never seen Felton play that well after the game.
With the loss, the Spurs move to 7-2 in the early season. The Spurs will have one much needed day off before returning to their home floor to host the visiting offensive minded Denver Nuggets on Saturday.