For most of the first half of this season, Times Knicks beat reporter Howard Beck — a writer so skilled and Twitter-savvy that you have to assume Grantland is calling him every week just to check in — had a running joke on Twitter that was funny because it wasn't really a joke: It was simply a listing of the players on the Knicks' sorry second unit. You could simply type "Bibby, Douglas, Walker, Harrellson, Jeffries" and get the point across with 96 characters to spare. The Knicks' bench was a disaster, which was doubly a problem because the starting five weren't exactly tearing the league up either. Last night, for much of the game, the Knicks' starting unit was falling behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a month-plus ago, that would have been the end of it. But this bench, it's definitely not that bench.
After being down by as much as 17 in the first half and trailing by seven with 4:50 left in the third quarter, the scrubs came in and absolutely took over. Baron Davis, J.R. Smith, Jared Jeffries, Iman Shumpert, and especially Steve Novak sent the Knicks on a crazy run that blitzed the Cavs before they even understood what was happening. The final score was 120–103. The second-half score was Knicks 71, Cavaliers 42.
How crazy did it get? Well, this —
— wasn't even the craziest part of the second half. (Though boy, isn't that fantastic? Davis and Smith have a weird sort of Vulcan mind-meld on those alley-oops, and that might have been the best one. Davis looks like he's shooing away a mosquito, and next thing you know, Smith is dunking behind his head. Awesome.)
The craziest part of the second half wasn't even the strange sense of deflation when Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony — both of whom played perfectly fine; it's Amar'e Stoudemire, it seems, whom we need to remain concerned about — returned to the game after the second unit's mad dash. Ninety-nine percent of the crowd was wearing the jerseys of one of those two guys, but they seemed like late arrivals to a party at that point.
No, the craziest part of the second half was midway through the fourth quarter, with Lin and 'Melo and Stoudemire finishing the win out, when the crowd, as one, began chanting "WE WANT NO-VAK! WE WANT NO-VAK!" And why not? The sharpshooter was out of control in the second half, hitting 5-of-6 from the three-point line, even continuing his dorky Aaron Rodgers Discount Doublecheck celebration. (And Rodgers should have never done those commercials, by the way. No one will ever remember that was supposed to be a championship belt again.) Novak has the sort of quick release that happens so smoothly it's a shock when he ever misses.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Novak is loving being a fan favorite.
“When I catch it, it’s almost like you hear, ‘Aaaahh,’” he said. “And then if it goes, they clap. If you miss, it’s ‘Ohhh.’ But it’s the first part, you feel like they want you to shoot it.”
Right now, everybody's a fan favorite: It was just a giddy, loopy night at the Garden. The Knicks are now back at .500 and have three days to practice before beginning a rough four-game road trip Sunday afternoon at Boston. Everyone can get some sleep, and come Sunday, the party can commence again. Here's thinking everybody, both units, shows up on time this time.