Despite having just run an inbounds play for (gasp!) Bill Walker, who stepped on the baseline as he simultaneously tried to cut toward the rim and secure the pass, the Knicks were one stop away from a key win over the South Beach SuperFriends with 12 seconds remaining on the clock at FanUp Arena. Which, at least in the recent past, meant that the other team was about to add a clip their end-of-season highlight film by way of buzzer beater. Courtside fans likely readied their high-fiving hands as outlined in the most recent Fan Up Memorandum.
LeBron James, pounding the ball at the top of the key, surveyed the landscape and the closest roadblock. It was New Knickerbocker Carmelo Anthony, whose defending and perhaps lawn care abilities were recently belittled by a former coach in Denver. Flanking and backing up Anthony was 34-year-old Chauncey Billups, the aforementioned and nondescript Walker, long but light Shawne Williams and Amar'e Stoudemire. The only player on the floor for the Knicks that has ever been considered a plus defender was Billups, and he has been in the league since LBJ was in the sixth grade.
More or less the size of Willis Reed but possessing the speed and handle of much smaller, I could see why LeBron would've thought the path of least of resistance against this club was a straight line to the rim. And, to hear Amar'e Stoudemire tell it after the game, he could also see why James would've come down Main Street.
To his credit, Anthony managed to body the charging James off his beeline ever so slightly. James veered to his left so that he wasn't coming straight at the rim on his final approach. He was coming in from the left. And just as he got to the rack, loosing the ball from his grasp, Stoudemire came soaring in from the weak side to push the ball off course. Perhaps by Russelian design, the blocked shot dropped to Williams rather than landing in the fifth row. Fouls were committed and the Knicks iced the game from the line.
"I knew what he was going to do," Stoudemire said. "Even if he had gone up for a dunk I would have contested that shot. I have a few game-winning blocks in my career."
One game-saving blocked shot does not transmogrify these 'bockers into the Riley-era bruisers of my youth (and, neither do the uniforms), but this squad has shown itself capable of playing hard, energetic defense for stretches. After a poor first quarter when they surrendered 34 points, the Knicks held Miami to 17, 15 and 20 points, respectively, in the next three quarters. If you carry the one, that means that a team starring James, Dwyane Wade and #likeabosh scored just 35 points in the second half. Despite rumors to the contrary, this defense may be operational. It's a defense built on pridefulness (and Toney Douglas) rather than principles but it appears capable to work for spurts.