Tonight, the Knicks battled back from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Cavaliers by 17, 120-103.
After getting back Shumpert, Harrellson and Davis, the Knicks believed that had one of the deepest teams in the league, and tonight, they backed that notion up.
The Knicks’ bench accounted for 50 of the team’s 120 points. At the beginning of the season, if you were to tell me that the Knicks’ bench would score 42% of the team’s points in a victory, I’d think you were crazy. We knew this team had talented starters, who also happen to take up the bulk of the payroll, but we didn’t know or expect the minimum contract guys to actually contribute. I’m glad I was wrong.
Over a roughly 6-minute stretch, spanning the third and fourth quarters, Steve Novak nailed five threes. He was unconscious from deep, knocking down jumpers that you thought had no shot of falling. Novak finished with 17 points, in a short 17-minute stint.
Also effective off the bench was backup point guard Baron Davis. Boom Dizzle had just 4 points, on 2-4 shooting, but managed to dish out 8 assists, in just 15 minutes. He’s ancient. I thought he couldn’t play, but to my surprise, he’s shown flashes of brilliant ball. If he can continue getting back into game shape, he’ll prove to be an instrumental part of the Knicks’ success. Allowing Lin to get rest, even to play over him if Lin is struggling, is a luxury the Knicks would love to have.
Baron’s most entertaining assist came on an alley-oop to JR Smith:
Speaking of Jeremy Lin, he had a fantastic game tonight. Lin finished with 19 points, 13 assists and just 1 turnover. Early on, he wasn’t looking for his shot, but looking to find his star teammates. He looked slightly star-struck, with ‘Melo and Stoudemire alongside him, but eventually settled into his game. Tonight, he shut a lot of people up. “He’s only scoring because of his three-point shooting.” Wrong. “He always has 7 or 8 turnovers.” Wrong. “He can’t play with ‘Melo.” Wrong. Jeremy Lin is playing some damn good basketball; just accept it.
Another guy that was criticized was Tyson Chandler. Not recently, but in the beginning of the year. Everyone said that he couldn’t individually transform the Knicks’ defense and the Knicks overpaid, but… He has. Tonight, Chandler was absurd. He was EVERYWHERE. He stole balls on the perimeter, he blocked shots down low, he pressured guys while in transition. He was amazing. Chandler finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks.
Along with Chandler, Iman Shumpert has impressed with his defense. His on-ball defense is second to no one on this team, and arguably one of the best in the entire league. Tonight, Shumpert recorded 3 steals, but endlessly pressured his opponent. Having Chandler and Shumpert on the floor at the same time transforms the Knicks’ defense into one of the best in the league. Throw in Jeffries and JR Smith… Watch out. I could see a lineup of Shumpert, Smith, ‘Melo, Jeffries and Chandler used to give opposing teams fits on the defensive end, while having plenty of firepower on the offense end.
All-in-all, tonight was an encouraging showing. Yes, they were supposed to beat the Cavaliers. Yes, I was freaking out when we were down by 17 in the first-half. But, good teams persevere, and the Knicks did just that. They stayed around and waiting for their shots to fall.
The Knicks will have three days off before they face off against the Celtics, in Boston.