There's a zany, wonderful brand of basketball unique to NBA games in April, and it was showcased in full force during Sunday's New York Knicks-Atlanta Hawks matinee. The Knicks and Hawks own two of the better defenses in the NBA, but New York decided to give Tyson Chandler -- the heart of their D-- a rest, and Atlanta was more than happy to join in an all-offense, zero-defense battle. Both teams filled up their hoops, force-feeding their stars and shooting ridiculous percentages from downtown. The game was close throughout, but New York ended up on top, 113-112.
The Hawks got their inside buckets without Chandler on the floor to thwart them, but their real punch came from the perimeter. Jeff Teague, who finished with 23 points, was the lone Hawk to get much going off of penetration. For the two other leading scorers -- Marvin Williams (29) and Joe Johnson (22) -- the points came mainly from the perimeter. Johnson and Williams combined to shoot 8-10 from downtown, sinking some open looks over a slow-rotating defense and some that were just preposterous contested shots. As a team, the Hawks hit 15 of 23 three-pointers, shooting way better from outside the arc (65 percent) than they did from inside (49 percent).
The Knicks didn't seem to be gunning quite as boldly, but ended up posting similar numbers. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 39 points, but was the only starter to shoot below 50 percent from the field. Amar'e Stoudemire, playing his second game back from a back injury, looked much sharper than he had in the previous game and added 22. As a team, the Knicks shot 12-19 from downtown (key contributors there were Baron Davis, who hit three of four, and Landry Fields, who exploded out of nowhere for a 16-point third quarter that included three three-pointers).
So, in terms of shooting, it was a pretty ridiculous affair, but this was still very distinctively April basketball. For example:
It was that kind of loose, gunning ball all evening, and that type of play fed into the game's closing events. The final scoring possessions came with under two minutes left when Johnson and Anthony went back and forth trading isolation buckets. Johnson drilled a contested three to put Atlanta up one, then Anthony came right back with a long pull-up two to put New York back ahead. The final minute was spent on bad passes and missed shots, culminating in a final possession in which Marvin Williams blew a dunk attempt that wouldn't have counted anyway because he released it after the buzzer sounded.
Standings-wise, the game meant just a little. Atlanta's loss meant that the Indiana Pacers clinched the third seed in the East, while New York's win meant they were still a longshot to catch the sixth seed. It also clinched their second winning season in a row (for the first time in quite a while).
For all of Sunday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.