Say this for the 2012-2013 Knicks, they've been worth the price of admission.
More often than not, whether they win or lose, the Knicks play games that reward you for paying attention. Strange turns of events, miraculous comebacks, forehead-slapping meltdowns and a little bit of everything in between have been par for the course for the Knicks this season.
Weird is normal, in other words, and that means Monday night's game in Cleveland was really something since it stood out even against a backdrop sewn together by bizarre happenings. It was a 102-97 win on paper, but something far different from that in actuality.
It looked like one of the worst nights of the year when the Cavs hit what felt like their first 30 shots from the field to build a 22-point first half lead while the Knicks were watching Carmelo Anthony fall to the court with a knee injury. Anthony said the knee has bothered him for a while and he'd had an MRI on Saturday that showed no serious damage, but it was still enough to knock him out on Monday.
Amar'e Stoudemire led them back into the contest as the offense shifted to a Stoudemire-centric approach that thrashed Cleveland inside and showed once more that STAT's offensive skills have a real place on this team. Beyond the usual array of post moves and slick pick-and-slips, Stoudemire delivered some nice passes out of the post against doubles to spur ball movement that was totally missing in the early part of the game.
There were some wrinkles to the offense -- Raymond Felton/Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls matched with a Stoudemire cut, for example -- that we haven't seen much of in the past and, in a big change from Sunday's collapse against Miami, Mike Woodson let those things play out on their own. Each trip looked a bit different, not all of them were perfect, and there wasn't the kind of predictability that helps defenses that we've seen on other nights.
Which isn't to say things didn't still veer into the strange now and again. Felton had a breakneck sequence where he sandwiched two turnovers and a blocked shot between a pair of defensive rebounds that should have played out with a soundtrack of cars crashing while a baby cries, and J.R. Smith seemed to split his time between missing threes and getting chewed out by Woodson.
But the good won out, from Steve Novak's three threes in the fourth quarter to Jason Kidd's second straight good night after a lost month right up to Stoudemire fighting through a block for a massive bucket late in the game that showed the explosive relentlessness that made everyone fell in love with him in the first place.
And then Chandler ended it with the first "NO! NO! YES!" block in history, a swat of a Kyrie Irving three that followed what seemed to be a faulty approach that made it the defensive version of an awful looking shot that goes in. It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but it was a fourth win in five nights.
Because we live in a reductive society, some will surely argue that the Knicks are better without Melo based on the way the Knicks offense created points after his exit. That's a ridiculous notion, but we'll concede that they were better off without the injured, limited Melo of Monday night because they needed to overwhelm a lesser team and that's not easy when you're operating at less than full capacity.
The Knicks need to do a better job of keeping that multi-faceted offense humming when Anthony's in the game, to be sure, but the notion that they're better without a guy who can score in the ways Anthony can score is ludicrous. It's important to remember than the Miami meltdown featured almost no positive contributions from the non-Melo contingent in the second half so it's probably just best to roll at full strength whenever possible.
There's a better than average chance that this Knicks season will end in a playoff loss in a few months that will have you wondering why you bothered letting yourself get drawn into this in the first place. It will be frustrating and maddening, but it's become clear that you're not going to be the least bit bored during the ride.