The Knicks had the chance to pull within 2.5 games of the Hawks for the sixth seed, but they were not able to get enough scoring outside of Carmelo Anthony (36 points) and Iman Shumpert (25 points). Those two players scored 61 of the Knicks’ 90 points, and shot a combined 20-38 from the field.
However, the rest of the team did not show up, as the overall field goal percentage was just 44 percent and the player that hurt that number the most was none other than JR Smith. He is a streaky player, who is either hot or cold, and on this night he could not buy a basket. He only made two of his 10 attempts, but the two he made did help the Knicks get close in the middle of the fourth.
Baron Davis also didn’t help, as he had four turnovers and four assists, which is not what you want from a point guard. He only shot 2-8 from the field and it would not have hurt if Toney Douglas got about 10 or 15 minutes. Davis had been playing better the past few games so hopefully playing Cleveland on Saturday will cause his play to improve.
The Hawks dominated the Knicks in the first two quarters as they were up by 14 points, 52-40, at halftime. They Knicks were lucky to not be losing by 15 at the half since Melo easily made a 30-foot 3-pointer as time expired.
The Orange and Blue did not play defense in the first 24 minutes in the same way that they had during Woodson’s first nine games, helping them start an 8-1 record and a surge back into the playoff race. The team did play better in the third quarter, as they outscored the Hawks by seven, but this game exposed the loss of Jared Jeffries.
If Jeffries would have been playing he could have limited the impact of Josh Smith, who finished with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists. They missed his defense as Shumpert was the only player, besides Chandler, who really showed up on that side of the ball.
The Knicks proved that they are not a team who will give up as they were able to turn up the intensity even more in the fourth, decreasing the Hawks lead to two points at one point, but it seemed like every time they gained momentum Joe Johnson made a clutch jumper. He finished 28 points and three assists and has had many dominating games against the Knicks in his career.
Another player who the Knicks were not able to contain was Willie Green, who previously played for the 76ers and the Knicks defense could not figure him out then either. He is basically a role player, but he scored about 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, which ruined Shump’s second consecutive 20-point game while Lin has been injured.
This was Shump’s first game back in Atlanta since the Knicks drafted him out of Georgia Tech and he definitely proved that he was ready to put on a show in front of his fans. Just like Melo, he did all he could to help the Knicks get closer to the Celtics and Hawks in the standings. In addition to scoring 25 points on 9-14 from the field, he had three steals, two rebounds, one assist and played lockdown defense.
His has improved his shot selection from earlier in the season and will definitely be an asset down the stretch.
If the Knicks would have won this game they would have been 2.5 games behind the Hawks, as previously mentioned, but also would have been 1.5 games behind the 76ers for second in the Atlantic Division and 2.5 games behind the Celtics, since Boston won.
If the Knicks catch the Celtics and finish in first place in the Atlantic they will be the fourth seed in the playoffs, so they need to hope that Boston struggles down the stretch since they have won four in a row. Since they lost they are now 4.5 games behind the Hawks, sot the next two games against the Cavs and Pacers are must wins.
At this point, it seems more likely that they will finish in first place in the Atlantic, than catch the surging Hawks for sixth, who are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The game against Boston on the 17th could go a long way towards deciding who wins the division.
The Celtics have been inconsistent throughout the season, so if the Knicks play like they did during Woodson’s first nine games as coach, for the rest of the season, they definitely have a chance to win the Atlantic Division.