The Knicks defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 91-87, at MSG, to move over .500 (5-4) and improve their record to 2-2 at the World’s Most Famous Arena. After losing by eight points on the 4th, the Knicks were able to pick up the defense to get some revenge against the Bobcats.
After winning two in a row on Wednesday and Friday, the Knicks have now won three games in a row against teams that will likely finish below .500. This was important for three reasons. They have four games coming up against playoff teams from last season, they need to protect home court and they need to take advantage of inferior competition.
A major difference between the Knicks and Bobcats in this game is that Charlotte scored 34 points off the bench, but New York only had three points from the reserves. The four players that came in off of the bench did not really add that much except for the six rebounds that Josh Harrellson provided. Against the better teams in the league, the Knicks will need to have more scoring out of the second unit.
The Knicks were led by Amar’e Stoudemire (25) and Carmelo Anthony (22) in points, but they likely would not have won without the consistent production from rookie Iman Shumpert, who had 16 points, six boards, four assists and three steals. Everybody seems to play with more energy when he is in the game and his hustle on defense leads to easy baskets on offense.
However, there is an area that Stoudemire and Melo need to improve on. Between the two of them, they shot a combined 13-43 from the field. Stoudemire and Melo racked up most of their points on free throws as Stoudemire made 11 and Melo made nine, of their 13 attempts.
The main reason that the Bobcats only lost by four points is that Boris Diaw, who excelled in Mike D’Antoni’s system in Phoenix, finished with 19 points, 10 boards and seven assists. He showed the same versatility that he showed with the Suns and it seems like he gets extra pleasure out of playing against his former coach because his two best games of the season have been against the Knicks.
The Bobcats got off to a fast start, as the Knicks played Swiss cheese defense leading to a 10-0 Charlotte lead off of 4-5 shooting. The Bobcats starting lineup for the game shared the ball well, as on their first five buckets all five starters scored.
Iman Shumpert was integral in making the score 14-13 with 5:27 left because he had two points, two assists and a rebound. After the Knicks came out of the gate in a 10 point hole they really started to pick up the defensive intensity and find the open man on offense, including a few impressive alley-oops.
Stoudemire was the impact player for the Knicks in the beginning of the second quarter, as he scored thier first nine points to make the score 33-29 with 8:28 remaining. With 3:40 remaining in the second Shump played tight defense leading to a steal and a fast-break dunk! Four alley-oops with one assisted by Melo.
They Knicks went into half-time with a five-point lead, 49-45. Stoudemire’s 15 points and eight boards lead the tean in both categories.
Diaw hit a 3-pointer with 6:15 remaining to make the score 63-59. He is the major reason that the Bobcats were still in the contest. He would routinely have games where he would almost have a triple double with the Suns and that is what he did at MSG.
The Knicks would then score four quick points, as Shumpert stole the ball near the arc and drove for a slam dunk at the other end, followed by another alley-oop thrown by Melo, this time to Tyson Chandler.
With Shumpert and Anthony out of the game for about four minutes, the Bobcats went on a run and were only down by three with 10:00 remaining. As the “We want Shumpert” chants started “Shump” quickly was sent back into the game by D’Antoni.
To extend the lead to six with 7:42 left, after getting the pass from Stoudemire who was double teamed, Fields made a beautiful pass to Chandler for the dunk. This was a pass that Steve Nash or Baron Davis might make.
The Bobcats went on a 9-2 run to tie the score at 82 with 2:55 remaining in the game. D.J. Augustin hit a three off of another assist by Diaw. This hot streak by the Bobcats was a result of a stretch of poor defense and unforced shots by Melo and Stoudemire
Landry Fields made one out of two free throws after a desperation foul by Byron Mullens to make the score 88-84. The Knickerbockers played lackadaisical defense coming out of the timeout as Ausustin would hit a shot from long range. With 8.6 seconds remaining Melo made both free throws after being fouled by DJ White to make the score 90-87.
Charlotte tried a last second three to tie the game, but Augustin missed his attempt from the left corner to allow the Knicks to walk away with the close victory.
It seemed like the game would end with a 90-87 victory for the Orange and Blue, but for some reason Gerald Henderson fouled Melo as time was about to expire. He made one out of two to make the final score 91-87.
Fields had another solid all around game contributing five points, five assists and six boards. He had a few assists that directly set up layups or dunks. This was not his best scoring game, but it was probably his best all around game. He could still improve his shot selection a little (2-6), which is much lower than last year when he shot 49.7 percent from the field.
Even though Melo scored 22 points that is not really what stands out most about his performance. He had four boards and more importantly, six assists leading to easy baskets. His six turnovers can’t be ignored, but at least he is being aggressive. I don’t think he will have many more games where he turns it over six times.
Another highlight for the Knicks was that 7’1 Tyson Chandler, whose defense, leadership and inside scoring helped Dallas win the championship last season, had probably his best game of the season. He scored 20 points on 7-8 shooting, had 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. He was a monster on both ends of the floor.
The Knicks are definitely a better team than the Bobcats and they showed that this time, even though they only won by four points. They had trouble putting the Bobcats away because whenever they went up by nine or 10 they would let Charlotte back in the game. If they go up by 10 against a better team they will need to be able to keep the lead consistent.
A positive sign is that it was reported yesterday that Baron Davis is still scheduled to be healthy at the end of the month. If Shumpert continues to play like he did tonight, as the starting point guard, and then potentially the starting shooting guard or sixth man when Davis joins the lineup, he could potentially be the Rookie of the Year.
The next game is on Wednesday, against their division rival to the south, the Philadelphia 76ers, who are off to a 6-2 start and everything has been clicking for them. They will need to contain Louis Williams, Andre Iguodala and Spencer Hawes.