Knicks Coast Past Atlanta, 99-82

Well that was easy.

Tonight, the Hawks came into Madison Square Garden with less energy than a middle aged man at a Justin Bieber concert. The Knicks dominated from the tip off and cruised to a 99-82 victory. The ball moved well all night and multiple Knicks contributed to the scoring. Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak led all scoring with 17 points each. Landry Fields, 16, Carmelo Anthony, 15, and JR Smith, 12, also scored in double digits for the Knicks. With the game out of reach late in the 3rd quarter, the Knicks’ key players got plenty of rest before tomorrow night’s showdown in Miami.

The ball flowed extremely well tonight. There was a clear, concentrated effort by the Knicks to get others involved. A couple times, Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith passed up shots they would normally take in order to get others involved. The solid ball movement was encouraging to see and should continue. Anthony should look for his shots a bit more, but there will be a point where he’ll find a nice equilibrium. Right now, the Knicks’ offense is going through the trials and tribulations of meshing together with new faces who have never played together. Despite their lack of chemistry, the Knicks looked pretty good tonight, offensively. It is true that Atlanta is depressingly bad without Johnson and Horford, but New York’s offense still looked very potent.

Baron Davis played 14 minutes tonight. He played all 14 minutes, as if he was playing on the “And-1″ tour or in the video game “NBA Street”. Always the showman, Davis played like a globetrotter tonight throwing alley-oops and behind the back passes. He still looked rusty, but his performance was promising. Davis can still play, there’s no doubt about it. His timing with his teammates is still not perfect and his shot was off tonight, but he was still a +6 in +/- and had 6 assists. He connected with JR Smith for two sick alley oops that are sure to be on Sportscenter tonight.

Who says Melo and Lin can’t play together? Anthony was still a bit rusty tonight and still put in 15 points on an efficient 7/16 shooting. Rather than ball hog, there was a bit of a reluctance for Melo to shoot the ball. As the game progressed, he became more comfortable in the offense and began to look for his shot. As long as he can keep playing within the offense, Anthony will get plenty of chances to score. Multiple times in the game, Lin found Anthony wide open for open shots, layups and dunks. The most emphatic Lin-to-Anthony assist was a monster Melo transition throw down in the 2nd quarter. The Knick star scored 15, but would have been in the 20′s if he had put in all the open baskets Lin got for him. Melo was a bit rusty on his jump shot, but physically he looked very good tonight.

Amar’e Stoudemire scored only 7 points, but recorded 10 rebounds. Stoudemire struggled again offensively, shooting only 3/8, but his effort in other parts of the game were encouraging. As opposed to the past few games, Stoudemire played a solid game defending and rebounding. His 10 boards were a game high and he noticeably was putting more effort into his half court defense. Early in the game, Stoudemire was beaten back in transition and struggled offensively. His negative body language showed the Knicks’ star’s frustration in his inability to get his game rolling. Rather than chuck shots, Stoudemire kicked up his effort in other parts of the game. This was encouraging to see tonight. Stoudemire, notoriously a poor defender, must begin to realize that there are other ways he can help this team. Even if he was scoring 30 a night, the Knicks would still desperately need his defense and rebounding. Without his offense in sync, Stoudemire must continue to excel in other parts of the game or it becomes useless to have him on the floor. It was encouraging to see his effort tonight.

This kind of game is exactly what the Knicks needed tonight. Going into their showdown with the rival Heat tomorrow night, the Knicks did not need to play a grind it out type game. They needed a dominant win in which they could rest players in the second half. That’s exactly what they got.

Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire played 27 and 24 minutes, respectively. In this lockout shortened season, rest is crucial and tonight the Knicks got a lot of it. No Knick played more than 34 minutes. Jeremy Lin, usually playing 38+ minutes, played 32 minutes and should be fresh tomorrow night.

Heat-Knicks is always an entertaining game. The Knicks always get up to play Miami and tomorrow night should be no different. Sure, Miami is rolling, but the Knicks have proven to themselves over the past two seasons that the “Three Queens of Miami” can be defeated. The pre-Jeremy Lin Knicks stuck with Miami earlier this year in South Beach, despite not having Carmelo Anthony. Last season, in his 3rd game as a Knick, Anthony outplayed LeBrick James to lead the Knicks to a 91-86 win in Miami. They say that LeBron is a different player this year, but lets see how he plays tomorrow in a big game. If the game is close, you can bank on James choking in the clutch. I like the Knicks’ chances tomorrow night and you should too. Its going to be a hell of a game.