Through three games, the Knicks have yet to struggle, and yet to meet an opponent to give them a real challenge. Yes, it’s only been three games – a sample size so small that it hardly has any real bearing on the season, or how good or bad a team will be. Yet, through 12 quarters this season, the Knicks look like a well-oiled machine, finely tuned on both sides of the floor to just slowly, efficiently unhinge their opponents.
Tonight was no different, as the Knicks recovered from a slow start to gradually sink their teeth into a short-handed Philadelphia 76ers club that just couldn’t generate enough momentum to halt these surprisingly machine-like Knicks.
[tabs tab1="First Quarter Recap" tab2="Second Quarter Recap" tab3="Third Quarter Recap" tab4="Fourth Quarter Recap"]
As mentioned, the first four minutes of the game were hardly ideal, as the Sixers ran out to a 14-4 lead and quickly inspired fear within fans that the Knicks would show up in their typical second-night-of-a-back-to-back, sloppy, lazy fashion. However, they recovered and fought right back against an extra-spunky, bouncy Sixers squad.
Raymond Felton continued his recent penchant for hot starts, as he scored or assisted on the Knicks’ first six baskets. With Kidd on the floor as an extra playmaker, and Carmelo Anthony spreading the floor as a power forward, Felton has been given significantly more room to run pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler or Anthony, either as the primary option or after running off a curl as the defense is still chasing to adjust.
Anthony, took a little while to get going, but eventually picked up the slack as he bruised his way to the basket for free throws until his shots started falling.
The quarter ended with one of the most delightfully absurd sequences of the season: Carmelo Anthony was stripped off the dribble by Thaddeus Young, as both teams scrambled for the ball, continually tapping it further towards the Sixers’ basket. Nick Young was the first to gain possession, and with ten seconds on the clock, heaved up a 30-foot-high bomb from the corner as he was falling out of bounds. The ball hit the top of the backboard and went out. With seconds remaining, J.R. Smith took the inbounds, sprinted up the floor, threw Evan Turner off with a blatant shoulder, and missed a pull-up 20-footer at the buzzer. I’m so glad basketball is back.[/tab]
The Knicks entered the second quarter with a 25-21 lead, having regained control of a game that nearly ran away from them in the opening minutes. A bench unit of Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Steve Novak, and Kurt Thomas began the quarter and were steady, making the Sixers’ life fairly difficult on both ends of the floor. Prigioni and Brewer surprisingly supplied a healthy dose of offense in this stretch, combining for 9 points early on.
Things got dicey for a moment as Smith and Royal Ivey got tangled up under the basket fighting for position and shoved each other. Smith received a technical for the brush-up, but no further action happened between the two.
The Knicks slowly started to pull away at the end of the half, reeling off 16 quick points in the final six minutes, and went into halftime with a 56-48 lead. Raymond Felton tweaked his ankle on the final play, but appeared to be alright as he started the second half.[/tab]
The third quarter proved to be the Knicks’ big pull-away quarter. The Knicks stormed out of the locker room by pouring in 16 points to the Sixers’ six in the first five and a half minutes. Brewer, Felton, and Anthony were the catalysts as each of the three knocked down multiple jumpers to balloon an eight-point lead to a 20-point lead, 74-54. That ankle of Felton’s thought to be briefly be a concern, proved to be inconsequential as he dropped in six quick points and then was given the rest of the night off, replaced by Prigioni at about the four-minute mark of the third quarter.
The mini explosion sent the Sixers staggering as they were unable to ever really regain balance and catch back up with the Knicks. Rasheed Wallace – who apparently is going to be receiving semi-regular playing time from Mike Woodson – checked in and continued some nonchalant bombing from downtown, the highlight being a buzzer-beating rainbow three-pointer to make the bench explode and end the third quarter. At that point, the Sixers had to have been morally defeated by the immortal ‘Sheed.[/tab]
[tab]The fourth quarter – a Sixers defeat, a Knicks win already sealed and ready to be delivered – saw a whole bunch of nonsense, particularly from J.R. Smith. Smith, sensing the game was ready to go into scrub-mode, used his final eight minutes to unleash a meaningless offensive assault that only Smith himself is capable of. An absolutely devastating, soaring, one-handed and-one smash off a wild Prigioni assist led to some delightful crowd taunting from Smith.
Later, his assaults were in the form of step-back jumpers, and catch-and-shoot threes, one of which was from about 25 feet out. Smith had his fun, and then Woodson, mindful of J.R.’s over-abundance of trash time joy, took him out.
Wallace played the majority of the quarter and finished a nice pick-and-roll with Prigioni. Chris Copeland saw some minutes and splashed a fancy little pull-up three-pointer. And amidst all of the silliness that was the fourth quarter, an overriding feeling prevailed – this is a dangerous Knicks team that has now thoroughly squashed each of their opponents to start the season.[/tab]
- Ronnie Brewer is playing at an astoundingly high-level on offense by his standards.He has made a three-pointer in each of the two games prior, and knocked down three more tonight, on his way to a 13-point, 10-rebound performance. The Knicks’ spacing was a concern going into the season, but if Brewer becomes a consistent, reliable option from the corners, it will grant the Knicks that much more room around the basket.
- Tyson Chandler does not have the flu, apparently, but is still a little sick, and it has shown. On a number of plays, Tyson allowed some basket-bent Sixers open lanes to the hoop without nary an attempted close-out, swat, or foul. He did finish some nice plays around the basket (three in particular off lovely Felton feeds), but his low rebounding numbers indicate that he’s just not quite feeling right. Vitamin C, Tyson!
- Speaking of Tyson, he, along with Felton and Kidd, were the three starters who played under 30 minutes. Kurt Thomas, Chandler’s backup thus far, only played six minutes, as Rasheed Wallace contributed 13 fairly productive minutes at the center position.
- Carmelo Anthony had the quietest night of his season with 21 points on 7-16 shooting and 10 rebounds. He forced his offense a bit in the first quarter, but slowly found his way and returned to the Good ‘Melo we’ve been seeing this year. He snaggled six of his rebounds in the first quarter.
- According to Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm, the Knicks are +21 per 100 possessions through their first three games. That’s a very good number.
The Knicks are now on what is called a “winning streak”. 3-0 and the Knicks have the largest margin of victory of any team in the league through their first three games. They go to Dallas to play on Friday night, so in between, they have three days to rest, recover, practice, and watch film. This is fun!