Carmelo Anthony (16 points, seven assists, two rebounds and a +15) played one of his best all around games of the season, while deservedly hearing a mix of boos and cheers during the 121-79 victory for the Knicks. They played tenacious defense and have not scored in the 120s this season.
It was Mike Woodson’s first game as the head coach, as D’Antoni had unexpectedly resigned as coach earlier in the day. It was actually a “mutual decision” to part ways, after D’Antoni explained his side of the story to Grunwald and Dolan and offered to stay.
If the Knicks can continue to play like they did against the Blazers the fact that D’Antoni resigned could be the best thing to happen to the team. A few days ago it was reported that players had started not to listen to D’Antoni anymore and he obviously had trouble getting the team to play defense. He also was not able to get Carmelo Anthony to play up to his potential, as he likely wanted the coaching change.
The Blazers have now lost four of their last five, but there is no guarantee that the Knicks would have won this game if D’Antoni was still the coach. The Knicks made the extra pass, played defense that had not been seen recently, took high percentage shots leading to shooting 54 percent from the field and holding Portland to 37 percent.
After the middle of the first quarter the Knicks basically dominated for the whole game.
The Knicks started out playing well on offense, as it seemed like Melo was energized by the coaching change. To start the first quarter, he made two 3-pointers after struggling from long range recently and made a pass that led to a monster dunk by Tyson Chandler. Woodson said that he encouraged Melo to be aggressive early which probably led to him scoring 10 early points and having two assists.
Woodson will be a different coach than D’Antoni because he “will hold players accountable” and cut back on their minutes if they are not playing up to par. Everybody contributed and played well tonight, but it is good to know that in future games he will tell players exactly what they have to do instead of making them figure it out on their own like D’Antoni wanted them to do.
The Knicks played competent defense, as they were motivated as a team. Woodson’s substitution patterns proved to be a little different, as all the starters sat to start the second. They played like a different team on defense, as they prevented the Blazers from scoring for the last six minutes of the first quarter and the first 4 minutes of the third quarter.
After starting the second unit for the second quarter, they had nine assists on their first 11 field goals of the second quarter.
Contributing to the assist number was Baron Davis, who had one of his best games so far as he finished with 10 assists, four points and two rebounds. He is easily able to find his teammates in scoring position and should continue to play only a few minutes less than Jeremy Lin. Lin had six assists, but also six turnovers, which was basically the only negative stat on the team.
They were showing effort, hustle and tenacity that they were not showing while D’Antoni was the coach. They played consistently on the offensive and defensive end, helping them take a 24-point lead mid-way through the second quarter.
Portland turned the ball over 14 times in the first half and the Knicks only committed nine turnovers. The Knicks also shot a very impressive 51 percent from the field leading to a 55-29 lead at the half.
It seems like it could have been possible that Melo played worse before today’s game so that D’Antoni would not be the coach anymore since he is definitely playing with much more passion.
Melo is playing much more unselfishly, as he could have gone in for the lay-up on a fast break but he made the extra pass to Tyson Chandler, who was able to convert an old fashioned three-point play.
Marcus Camby was called for a flagrant-one foul, as he blindsided Landry Fields who was going up for a dunk. If this was a close game it would have been important for somebody to retaliate in some way.
The Blazers scored for the first time with 8:04 remaining in the third to give them 31 points.
A positive sign is that JR Smith made two 3-pointers on two consecutive possessions towards the end of the third after previously struggling from long range (he also made a three after the timeout). He is a streaky shooter and when he is on and playing smart he is capable of giving the team a boost. The nine-point run gave them a 31 point advantage and allowed the starters to have more rest.
Portland was not showing a lot of effort on the defensive end, as Novak and Smith continued to nail 3-pointers to give the Knicks a 25-point lead after the Blazers had gone on a run.
Mike Bibby even saw his first action since the middle of Febraury, as Mike Woodson was thankfully able to give the regulars some needed rest. Jerome Jordan, the 7’0 reserve center from Jamaica, also got to see some action with 3:30 remaining. The Knicks would give the crowd a show in the fourth with 3 after 3 ,with Josh Harrellson joining in on the fun.
The Knicks are now 12-10 at MSG after a much needed victory over the struggling Blazers.
There was even chant for Mike Woodson at the end of the game who was able to use isolation plays for Melo to help him excel.
Another positive sign from this game was that Amar’e Stoudemire actually led the team with eight rebounds. He is 6’10 and is explosive so he should normally get about eight rebounds.
After dominating the struggling Blazers in every aspect of the game the Knicks will now have a home-and home with the Pacers, on Friday and Saturday, who are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.