Well, this game should have been eye-opening. In a high scoring affair, the Knicks defeated the Hawks 111-106 improving to 7-16 on the season. Bouncing back from a horrific 4th quarter against Boston on Friday night, the Knicks held off a third quarter Hawks run before pulling ahead in the 4th quarter. We’ve seen the Knicks play good games coming off a loss this season with hot shooting only to regress and return to their losing ways in coming games. Yet this game felt different, if only because the way in which they won was similar to the 54 win team a season ago. Yes, this was nowhere near the best the Hawks have to offer, but it was also some of the most efficient, smart basketball the Knicks have played all year.
It all starts with the lineups, and for the first time in a while, Mike Woodson played the right combinations. While it was more by necessity (due to the injury to Kenyon Martin) than design, the Knicks went small tonight for more than 35 minutes, playing Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position for most of his minutes. It was Melo along with Pablo Prigioni (who played 31 huge minutes) that propelled the Knicks to victory. The small ball lineups with 3 guards and Melo forced a ridiculous numberof turnovers; the Hawks had 27 turnovers for the game. And although many of these Hawks turnovers were unforced errors, the huge discrepancy in shots (87-66) was in large part due to a return to a style that the Knicks were so successful with last year.
It remains unclear whether Woodson will continue to play Melo at the four or give Prigioni big minutes when Raymond Felton and Kenyon Martin return from injury, but the empirical evidence says he should. One criticism of Mike Woodson, even when the Knicks were successful, is that many of his best lineups only came from injury. Maybe this time, with his job on the line, Woodson will ignore agendas and play the lineups that works. For those who know Mike Woodson and his traditionalist attitude, this seems unlikely, but it seems important to note on a night when Woodson finally benched JR Smith down the stretch that desperation can breed change. Maybe Mike Woodson will finally realize who makes the Knicks successful; all we can do is hope.
WHAT WENT WELL:
- Carmelo Anthony had an extremely efficient scoring game, in large part due to the mismatches created by him playing power forward. Melo had 38 points on 22 shots, while adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Anthony scored in a variety of ways tonight, showing why he can be such a valuable player when used correctly.
- It is become apparently clear that Pablo Prigioni is the best point guard on the Knicks. Pablo scored 11 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals, but his impact was greater than the stat sheet. He was the catalyst for the Knicks offense in the 4th quarter, allowing the Knicks to pull away. He also played decent defense on Jeff Teague, holding him to 4 points.
- Andrea Bargnani was deadly in the pick and pop, scoring 23 points on 11-16 shooting. When he is making his shots, Bargnani can be a valuable cog in the Knicks offense.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. once again excelled, making huge plays in the 2nd quarter. Hardaway had 9 points in the 2nd quarter, finishing with 13 in the game. Mike Woodson has great trust in Hardaway and he could start getting big minutes if Shumpert and Smith continue to struggle.
- The Knicks went to the two point guard lineup for about a minute and they outscored the Hawks 7-2. Maybe they should do that more.
- Amar’e Stoudemire looks better every game; his movements are more fluid and the effort is certainly there. Stat will never be the player he once was, but you can never knock his work ethic.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- JR Smith looks lost on the court. After taking only one shot Friday night, Smith started and went 1-5 in the first quarter, finishing the game with 2 points in 24 minutes. Mike Woodson opted to play Shumpert and Hardaway Jr. over Smith down the stretch and JR was seen visibly moping on the sidelines.
- Iman Shumpert is invisible on the court at this point. It is not that Shumpert is making many bad plays, he is just not aggressive enough. Shump only took 2 shots in 33 minutes.
- The Knicks allowed the Hawks to climb back into the game by allowing the Hawks (and specifically Kyle Korver) to take WIDE OPEN threes (the Hawks shot 46.9% from three). Leaving Korver open is not a good strategy.
- Clyde jacket looked like a couch tonight:
- The Knicks wore the white jerseys tonight. As you may recall, the last time the Knicks played the Hawks with orange jerseys, the red and orange jerseys were hard to differentiate.
- Metta World Peace got an and-one and then kissed his bicep. Never change, Metta.
- Kyle Korver hit a three pointer for a 93rd consecutive game. What an impressive streak.
- The Knicks are off Sunday and take on the Washington Wizards on Monday at the Garden. The game will be televised @ 7:30 on MSG.