New York Knicks 104, San Antonio Spurs 100: “We ran out of gas.”
AT&T CENTER — For all the talk coming into the game of Carmelo Anthony leading the Knicks at power forward, it was Raymond Felton playing the traditional point guard that sunk the Spurs in a 104-100 win over San Antonio. Felton scored 25 points, eight in the fourth quarter, to help New York erase a 12-point deficit in the final period.
Melo, who faced Spurs big men DeJuan Blair and Boris Diaw in the first half and swingmen Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson in the second, finished with nine points on 3-12 shooting.
“Kawhi’s just learning how to guard somebody that’s as amazing as Carmelo. Jack, I thought was really good,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “[Carmelo’s] a great player… and you’re not going to stop him, but I thought Jack gave him a good run.”
The Spurs started with Blair at the power forward and put him on Melo defensively, which worked fine. Melo never went off, but the Knicks were still able to build a eight-point second quarter lead behind a 7-10 start from the 3-point line.
It wasn’t until the Spurs matched New York’s small ball approach, sending Leonard back into the game for Diaw, that the Spurs went on a run. San Antonio closed the second quarter outscoring New York 15-7 to close the half and took a 57-55 lead into halftime.
The Spurs went back to the two-big approach in the third quarter, but made another run, 10-5 to close the period, when they went small again. Eventually, the Knicks turned up the pressure defensively and the Spurs weren’t able to respond with made shots.
When you start a player with the defensive ability of Tyson Chandler and get athletes like Melo and J.R. Smith to give effort on that end, you can really create a suffocating defense. About the time Tiago Splitter finished up his own personal 13-0 run in the fourth, the Knicks started their ascent.
Felton almost had an old-fashioned 3-point play, but missed the free throw and Jason Kidd knocked down a couple of the new-fangled ones. While the Knicks were knocking down shots, the Spurs were giving the ball away. The Spurs turned it over three times and missed 10 shots in a 27-11 run for New York to end the game and give San Antonio its second loss of the season.
“The guys busted their butts. I’m really proud of their effort, but they just didn’t have enough in the tank after that road trip,” Pop said.
- Gary Neal didn’t play because of a cut on the index finger of his shooting hand. He got the cut from his luggage in LA, but was able to play through it against the Lakers. Once the cut scanned over, it made it difficult for him to play through the injury. The team is anticipating he’ll play on Saturday night.
- Manu Ginobili still hasn’t worked through the combination of injury and rust that’s been plaguing him in this early season. Manu finished with 12 points on 4-8 shooting and four assists, but had three of the team’s 13 turnovers. He’s showing flashes of the Manu brilliance that we’ve come to expect from him, but the team hasn’t been able to lean on him as a playmaker and that’s a big reason the Spurs bench hasn’t been the force it was last season. I was actually more hopeful when Stephen Jackson checked into the game in the fourth quarter than when Manu did, that’s where we’re at this point in the season.
- As much as his defense helped the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard also had a heck of an offensive night. Leonard had 16 points and eight rebounds against New York and was the team’s biggest threat from the perimeter. Leonard is still inexperienced, but he takes losses harder than most guys I see in the locker room postgame.
- All in all, not a terrible loss for the Spurs. The Knicks are still undefeated, so San Antonio lost to a very good team. Coming off of a four game road trip where several players had been sick, they were in a good position to lose. I can imagine many are disappointed with blowing a sizable fourth quarter lead, but they get to move on to the next one in two short days.