The Lead: With half a second left in the game that was tied 108-108, Carmelo Anthony did to the Grizzlies what Zach Randolph did to the Mavericks last weekend and Rudy Gay did to the Heat and the Raptors earlier this season: Delivered a gut-punch loss with a baseline jumper.
The Grizzlies did well to even get the game to that point, after trailing by as much as 17 in the second half and holding a lead (27-26) for a total of 18 seconds during the entire game.
For most of the night, the Knicks delivered an overwhelming offensive barrage, raining jumpers like an entire team of Lamar Mundanes. Through three quarters — after which they held a 96-82 lead — the Knicks were shooting better than 60% from the floor and nearly as well (12-21, 57%) from three-point range. An astounding 74 of those 96 points had come from the perimeter.
That the Grizzlies were still maintaining something of a pulse through all this was do mostly to active play from the starting backcourt of Tony Allen and Mike Conley, who had combined for 38 points on 13-18 shooting and 6 steals. There was a connection between the steals and points, of course — Allen had steals and breakaway layups on consecutive positions midway through the second quarter to tie the game for the last time until the final seconds. Forcing turnovers and scoring in transition was about the only thing the Grizzlies were doing right through three quarters: 22 points off 11 Knicks turnovers and 26 fastbreak points in all.
Then, as they had against the Spurs and Mavericks earlier in the month, the Grizzlies fought all the way back from a double-digit deficit. The Grizzlies defense tightened up in the fourth quarter, not only continuing to force turnovers (six in the quarter), but finally forcing misses too, holding the Knicks to 14 points on 6-20 shooting.
On the offensive end, the Grizzlies frontcourt finally got going, with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combining for 22 points on 7-13 shooting and 8 boards. There were mistakes along the way: The Grizzlies failed to convert a transition opportunity off a Randolph steal midway through the quarter that would have cut the deficit to four, and the Knicks scored consecutive buckets instead to push their lead back to 10. Late in the quarter, the Grizzlies charge sputtered with consecutive turnovers — a pass from Arthur that Conley mishandled and then Arthur letting the ball get poked away after a defensive rebound. But the Knicks couldn't score on either subsequent possession, and the Grizzlies had a chance: Shot clock off, down three. A Conley drive-and-dish to Randolph lead to a basket and a free throw that tied the game for the first time since midway through the second quarter. But it was short-lived.
The Grizzlies has one final shot with .5 seconds left and went for a lob pass to Darrell Arthur that the Knicks broke up. Would have rather seen a catch-and-shoot there, but the odds were long regardless.
Man of the Match: Tony Allen is a career 7 point scorer, but he's stepped up in Rudy Gay's absence with four 20-point games in the nine the team has played without Gay. Allen put up 22 tonight about as efficiently as possible, shooting 7-8 from the floor, mostly on transition lay-ups and slithery drives, and 8-9 from the free-throw line, while also registering 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Allen also delivered the most consistent energy of anyone on the team. The way he was playing compared to other wing options tonight, the Grizzlies probably would have benefited from more than 32 minutes from Allen.
Nightly Number: So many statistical oddities tonight: 82 perimeter points from the Knicks to only 4 free throws, for instance. But I'll use this space to go back to the three keys I spotlighted earlier today, none of which went right for the Grizzlies:
1. Limit Melo's efficiency: Anthony scored his 31 points on 12-24 shooting, 3-5 from three-point range, 4-4 from the line.
2. Dominate the offensive glass: Despite 53% from the floor on mostly jumpers, the Knicks still doubled-up the Grizzlies on the offensive glass, 10-5. This was bad.
3. Don't let the secondary shooters go off: Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Shawne Williams, and Roger Mason (whom I didn't even mention) combined to shoot 9-19 from long-range.
The Match-Up: Despite facing a non-imposing center tandem of Jared Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf, Marc Gasol struggled offensively, shooting only 3-7 from the floor, with 4 turnovers to only 1 assist. On the defensive end, he seemed to be less effective against the super-quick Amar'e Stoudemire than Darrell Arthur or even Zach Randolph were. Put it all together, and Gasol was a team-worst -20 in his 23 minutes.
The Jacob Riis Report: Even without Chauncey Billups, you can see why this Knicks team is so explosive offensively. Surround two of the league's top five individual scorers (Stoudemire and Anthony, who combined for 57 points on 25-46 shooting) with shooters, spread the floor, and let them go to work. Clamp down on the stars and the sharpshooter role players get open looks. Pick your poison.
Tweet O’ the Game: Tony Allen is on Twitter!: Its me corleone 1st tweet in my life — @aa000G9
Arena Action: A six-year-old little girl, Ellen, a patient at St. Jude, sang the anthem. Didn't flub a word. Brought the house down. Penny Hardaway made the scene courtside.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies fall to 36-30 but maintain their hold on 8th place in the West. The other two games of the night relevant to the team's playoff push didn't go their way either: Utah's two-point win at Toronto brought them to within 1.5 games of the Grizzlies, while New Orleans' surprising home win against Dallas — without Chris Paul — pushed them 1.5 games ahead of the Griz.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies travel to Miami to play a suddenly struggling Heat game in a Saturday matinee. 2:30 p.m. tip.
Announced Attendance: 17,512. Great crowd.
Rudy Gay confirmed after the game that he'll have a follow-up MRI done on his injured shoulder on Monday. If all goes well, he could be cleared for on-court activity and start getting ready for a potential return.
Jason Williams missed tonight's game with a sore lower back.
Darrell Arthur might have made the short list of great Griz dunks with his fourth-quarter hammer off a Tony Allen feed.
Ish Smith continued to play ahead of Greivis Vasquez at back-up point guard. Smith's quick hands and feet are helpful, but he hasn’t shown any kind of shot-making ability.
Zach Randolph continued his more well-rounded play, registering 3 assists and 2 steals.