As soon as I begin to converse with you, the fans of New York, news comes across that the Knicks’ orthopedist is flying in from New York City to examine the swelling on Iman Shumpert’s surgically-repaired left knee that flared up three days ago. I really do not know what to assume of this. My optimism tells me that it is a deep contusion, or a minor sprain, but I really am not counting on any shumping tonight, and I say that with a deep sadness.
The Knicks are in a pickle up front. With Shump most likely a no go (my gut feeling), and JR Smith ailing from a flu, a stomach virus, and Rihanna, the one advantage in this series for the Knicks has essentially flipped over to Indiana. There’s no telling what Mike Woodson will resort to tonight, he may just have to suit up Dave Hopla to run off screens and hit some three pointers. Seriously, though, these holes need to be mended for at least one game before the series heads back to New York, hopefully knotted up at two games apiece. Tonight will be a true “gut check,” as Carmelo Anthony called it, and the Knicks can either fight, or retreat with their tails between their legs and begin to find open slots for tee-time.
Woah, wait, let’s take a step back, and breathe.
Usually, I’m not one to view the glass half empty. I will never throw in the towel; and that’s just my tough-gritted New York attitude I was raised with. The Knicks do have a legitimate chance of winning this game tonight, crippled roster or not. It can, should, and ultimately must be done.
Carmelo Anthony was really criticized for not taking enough shots in game three, only 16. I know, the microscope of New Yorker’s is as brutal as a mean little boy pointing a magnifying glass at tiny little ants and watching the shrivel. Anthony knows what it’s going to take tonight, and rightfully so, he’s responded with telling us he will be more aggressive and look for his shot. Soon after, Tyson Chandler was very critical, and said the Knicks need to move the ball more and worry less about one man (Carmelo Anthony cough cough). I am just curious to where Tyson thinks the offense is going to come from. Unless he knows something about his former champion teammate Jason Kidd putting in extra hours behind the three-point line, please, inform us.
That being said, Woodson agreeably said he would cut Kidd’s minutes if his offense continues to diminish. As Woody twiddles his thumbs and ponders where he can find some sort of inside-out threat who can hit an open three pointer and take some pressure off Carmelo, I’ll let everyone know Chris Copeland is still sitting on the bench, waiting… Yearning.
Copeland is only a piece of this puzzle that is game four. If he does not get a chance tonight to implement some offense, I don’t think he’s getting out of the doghouse the rest of the season. His defense can’t really be that horrid, that his sweet stroke has to ride the pine every night, even with the situation we are in tonight, bodies down everywhere.
So, let’s see where we are, rotation wise. Shump most likely (once again, my gut) sitting this one out, I don’t even think JR knows what to expect from JR, and Kidd could see less minutes if he doesn’t produce early. That opens up three rotation slots, maybe about 50 minutes total. Out of that 50, Carmelo will most likely see a raise in a few minutes, and so will Felton, regardless of his play, the back line is just shortened. Then we look down the bench and see Novak, Copeland, and yes, Quentin Richardson. Out of these three, figure Copeland and Novak will see the court tonight, just hopefully not at the same time (defensive suicide). But If Woody really wants to continue his small ball, Copeland will help to spread the floor and pull whoever is guarding him out of the paint, and the same goes for Novak. The Pacer’s front line tonight will need to be adjusted to, heedlessly of who it is, because they have dominated two out of three games this series.
Lets hope there can be some generation of offense from those guys, and Amar’e Stoudemire, who can give the Knicks’ 15 hard minutes. Even if it is without scoring, help grab some rebounds, give us some second chance opportunities. Knicks’ fans appreciate the little things.
If Mike Woodson decides to rock the boat a little tonight, I hope he shuffles the starting lineup. Go Big, or go home. How figurative and literal is that for you? I would go with Prigioni, Felton, Anthony, Martin, and Chandler. Bolster your front line, prevent Anthony from being beat up, and grab some rebounds, please. Also, it would be great to see Pablo be the soul orchestrator while Felton can run off some baseline screens for open shots on the baseline. He’s been very effective at this throughout the season, and for sure it would open up his entire game from the get go, making the defense honor his jump shot and giving him the ability to take it to the hole and create. And that’s really how the Knicks win tonight, rebounding, grit, and scoring. The blueprint seems simple, but it’s going to take a team effort on the offensive end to win, and guys must hit shots. We’ll see where we are in 24 hours.
Much has been made of the downward spiral of JR Smith in these playoffs. Fortunately for the Knicks, there has been a corresponding upward trend by Iman Shumpert. As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another door gets dunked on by Iman Shumpert.”
Let’s start with Smith. Much like the Knicks themselves, JR started the playoffs pretty strong. In the first three games against the Celtics, he was 7-19, 7-15 and 6-12 from the field. While 43% isn’t amazing, it’s actually better than the 42% JR shot during the regular season. Then came the elbow, the ejection, the suspension, the trash talk and finally, the slide. Since his suspension Smith has shot 3-14, 5-13, 4-15 and 3-15 for an abysmal 26%. Not surprisingly, New York went 3-0 with the hotter JR and has gone 2-3 since (including the suspension game).
Yet, there is cause for hope even if Smith can’t pull out of his funk immediately. That hope is the rising play of Iman Shumpert. In the first three games when the Knicks were bulldozing Boston, their top three scorers in each game were Smith, Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony and they took and made the bulk of the shots for New York. Shumpert’s role was as a defensive stopper who occasionally spotted up for a three. In those three games he went 1-2, 2-6 and 1-5 from the field. He also never played more than 22 minutes in any of those three games.
The thing that Felton, Smith and Anthony have in common is that they can create their own shot either from the perimeter or by attacking the basket off the dribble. Most of the rest of New York’s scoring comes from spot up shooting off the catch or the occasional alley-oop dunk by a big man. When Smith was suspended, New York found itself without a key component of their offense. Among other things, Coach Mike Woodson likes to keep three guards on the floor at all times and Smith had been giving him 30 minutes a game that now needed to be funneled elsewhere.
Since Shumpert’s offensive skillset most closely resembles Smith’s (of Woodson’s options), and he had been playing so few minutes, I suggested to Posting and Toasting’s Seth Rosenthal that Shumpert would see a major spike in playing time. Sure enough, Shumpert’s minutes doubled, as he went 44 minutes in game four against the Celtics. As required, he was much more aggressive on the offensive end, taking 13 shots instead of his usual four or five. Though he only made five of them and the Knicks lost, Woodson’s show of faith in Shumpert has reaped rewards as the playoffs have progressed. Even with the return of Smith, Shumpert has continued to see increased minutes: 29, 38, 33 and 29. This has been accompanied by greater aggression and greater success on the offensive end. Iman has shot 4-7, 6-9, 4-11 and 7-11 in those games. After taking just four shots a game in the first three clashes with Boston, Shumpert has averaged 10 shots a game since, while hitting on 51% of those shots.
Shumpert’s most recent effort would seem the most promising and will be one the Pacers need to account for as the series continues. In that game, Shumpert went 6-8 from two-point range. This was the first playoff game which Iman made more than three shots from inside the arc and hopefully this is a sign that Shumpert is finally becoming confident attacking the basket again after a very slow and gradual return from his ACL surgery. Though at least he was finding ways to help his team on the court during the time he was rebuilding his confidence after the doctors cleared him (mandatory jab at Derrick Rose of the hated/feared Bulls).
Given that it has taken Shumpert over 50 games to perform at this level after coming back from his injury, I hope New York fans have very low expectations should Amare Stoudemire return to the court this Saturday. As we saw from STAT earlier this season, even he doesn’t play like an all-star for the first several games after a long absence due to injury. Given the size of Indiana’s frontline and the Knicks inability to find a big man that can score when Melo is on the bench, even a 60% STAT might be pretty helpful at this point though.
Since New York just beat the Pacers by 26, while Smith was shooting 3-15 and STAT was in street clothes, I really like New York’s chances in this series. Charles Barkley and his predictions otherwise and statement that Indiana is just a better team be darned. We’ll see Chuck, we’ll see… If Shumpert stays aggressive and keeps giving the Knicks another solid option on the offensive side of the floor (to go with his incredible efforts on the defensive end), then I think Indiana is in quite a bit of trouble.
Man, things are really starting to heat up…
With the Celtics now in the rearview mirror, it’s safe to say, that was more excitement and anxiety than I was expecting out of the Knicks’ first round matchup with Boston. But the green demons that haunt all Knick fans have finally been ousted and placed on the shelf, as we can. For the first time in 13 years, look ahead to the second round, beginning Sunday afternoon at 3:30 est. at Madison Square Garden. Awaiting the Knicks is another old foe, the Indiana Pacers. A team whom New York broke even with at 2 games a piece in the regular season, and this is going to be a VERY interesting series. Knicks’ fans who weren’t too fond of seeing the seasoned rival Celtics that have beaten up on the Knicks the past five years, and notorious villain Paul Pierce for six games, will not feel any friendlier toward Indiana and their relentless style of play, getting under an opponents skin, and long past with New York.
It’s actually been a decade now since the Knicks and Pacers started gaining some momentum in what turned out to be one of the most prevalent enemies of the ‘90s, starting with the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. Reggie Miller was a Knicks assassin the next seven years. Though only getting past New York one time in 2000, Reggie had created innumerable moments that sealed the Pacers as a legitimate nemesis.
Ok, so if that didn’t get your blood boiling, check your pulse and read on. It’s 10 years later, but we can expect an equally physical matchup up between these two teams. Critics have ping ponged all year between who’s the favorite between the Knicks and Indy. Of course, the Knicks sub-.500 stretch of basketball during their 20-21 stretch lost among the middle of the season factors in, while the Pacers looked as if they were going to settle into number two and maybe even catch Miami. Until the Heat went nuts on their winning streak. Finally, New York was the last team to make their own run in March/April and silenced all the doubters who had orange and blue dead in the water. While Indiana percolated a little with New York, the Knicks winning ways continued as the Pacers dropped a few games, ultimately rewarding the Knicks with the number two seed, and home court advantage starting Sunday.
Home crowds will factor into the series tremendously. There is a blatant animosity on both ends of this relationship, from fans to players. JR Smith and Lance Stephenson will quickly escalate into something interesting; While Carmelo Anthony and Paul George look to lead their ball clubs to the Eastern Conference Finals. As I look at the matchups in this series, the Knicks’ ability to go big or small at their leisure will be an issue for the Pacers.
The Pacers are a slow paced team, matching the ideal playoff-tempo, and New York likes to push, when possible, but still take their fair share of threes, mostly off missed rotations due to catching a defense offset in transition. However, the Indiana-New York regular season sort of put up opposite numbers from how each team prefers to play. The Knicks were outscored 59-29 in fast break points during the regular season, including one game with zero. Roy Hibbert credits this to submitting to New York’s style of play.
“ We haven’t played the best against New York. We play a different style of play, for some reason, when we’re home against New York.”
The Knicks may have to adjust their play in order to defeat Indiana four times. The Pacers are another team who is tough on the perimeter and will bully you all night. I know people are already murmuring Indiana is going to stomp us inside, but Indiana has actually allowed teams to shoot 52% this year from five feet or closer. It’s more on the offensive end where they are 56% on average. This series is definitely open the door for Marcus Camby and Amar’e Stoudemire. It is going to be very difficult to keep Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin out of foul trouble against a plethora of tough interior defenders. Tyler Hansbrough even goes by the nickname of Crazy T. Well; we’ll see how crazy he is when he has to matchup with crazy K.
Joking aside, Camby had a few warm up minutes against the Celts, I feel this series is the reason Marcus was coveted as a big pick up for New York this last offseason. He should be a perfect compliment when Tyson has to come out. As for Stoudemire…
Let’s hope that doesn’t continue to be an issue when he returns. His post scoring, though, will be a boost. Mike Woodson is now pointing at game three to be Amar’e’s return date. And if Novak is still out for a game or two, the question remains if Chris Copeland will see the floor anytime soon.
Chris Copeland dropped 20 points in the final meeting of the regular season against Indiana during his April Rookie of the Month campaign, helping the Knicks clinch the two seed. Copeland presents issues for Indiana with a bigger lineup. His quick, basic first step breaks down the Pacers, while his three point shooting spaces the floor.
The emergence of Iman Shumpert against the Celtics was a sight for sore eyes. Shump’s defense dictated bits and pieces of the series, and that’s what the Knicks need to keep this push going. Shumpert will have his hands full with Paul George, but has a chance to change this whole series if he can keep George’s activity level low. Iman averaged 1.8 steals against the Celtics, but showed a significant difference in activity from game three and on.
Carmelo Anthony will be number one on the Pacers hit list. He will be matched up with David West in what is sure to be a physical matchup. Anthony will need to exploit this by running more pick and rolls with Felton. West won’t be comfortable on the perimeter with Anthony, just as Melo will not have fun banging with West on the other end of the ball. But Anthony should be able to roll with the punches as long as his temper stays under control. Anthony is coming into this series second in the playoffs in scoring with 29 points per game.
The Pacers showed at times against Atlanta that they get caught in dry spells when George and Hibbert are taken out of the game. Something the Knicks should look to exploit by trying to go up early in games. This will not be a high scoring series, nor will it be a pretty one. The Knicks are going to have to fight tooth and nail to earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t know how many games this series goes, but I am confident the Knicks take it. They overcame Boston and learned a great deal about what it takes to win, so they should be all braun and business. 12 more wins Knicks fans.
With their backs against the wall tonight in Boston, the Knicks, essentially, have no one to blame but themselves for the pressure that is now on them to win game six. This is going to be the third try to close out Boston, a team running off emotion, heart, and fuel added to the fire by none other than a Knicks team with disappointing comments and actions coming from a team who hasn’t advanced out of the first round in 13 years. Knicks fans have began pointing fingers anxiously in search of the reason why they cannot overcome one more win and the mental aspect of beating the Celtics. The Knicks should win tonight. The pressure is on Carmelo Anthony to deliver. But Boston is not ready to turnover and call it quits. There are a few things the Knicks can do to produce a positive outcome and avoid playing a game seven on Sunday, and there are also some things they must avoid.
Where else is there to start than with the man most of the pressure falls on? Carmelo Anthony has taken a nosedive in production the last two games, and ultimately stagnated the team’s efficiency and production with a lack of ball movement, and too much isolation. Anthony has only six assists in the 208 minutes he has played this series, and 137 attempted shots. We DON’T need any more isolation. Anthony can’t single handedly beat the Celts, but he can leave a significant mark on this game in other aspects besides scoring. Melo, you will get the ball back, your teammates know you are the first option and won’t look to force anything they don’t have. Something the Knicks also DO need is more quick cuts and flashes from Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert on the weak side of the ball looking for layups. Worst case scenario for this, Anthony draws his cutting teammate’s defender and can effectively pass out of a double team, although Anthony’s lack of production has led to less double teaming, which is hurting the rest of the team.
I think it’s safe to say Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert have been two of the best players in the later half of this series. Felton has completely exposed the Celtic’s biggest hole at the guard position, and taken advantage of the opportunity. I believe that the Knicks DO need to run their offense through Felton tonight, and not Anthony. Felton’s 21 points in game six all came from inside the arc. He has also orchestrated some beautiful pick and rolls with Tyson Chandler, which is where the Celtics have a hard time defending the Knicks. The pick and roll is the only way to soften the tight grip of Boston’s perimeter defense on the Knicks, because the defense has no choice but to collapse when there is the threat of a lob to Chandler, or Felton taking it himself. This is when Felton also finds Shumpert in the corner, where Iman has to knock down open threes. We will give Shump a pass, though, for his superior defense in game five. That was probably Shumpert’s most impressive defensive game all year, and we really see his athleticism, at least on defense, back at almost full force, which is a huge boost for the Knicks who will need to take players like Jason Terry out of the game tonight, and win the sixth man battle.
The Knicks’ sixth man will need to show up tonight if they want any chance of ending this series. JR Smith did not hit a shot until the fourth quarter in game six, and was 0-10 at one point. After all the comments made about Jason Terry, we all would of thought Smith was going to come out of the gates blazing, but he just seemed a little too excited and trigger happy. Smith has to get back to the way he was playing in game’s one and two, taking it to the basket and not settling. Credit some of this to Boston’s defense, but ball movement can easily beat their rotations and break down their defense, which JR has been such a catalyst of.
Stay intense of the defense, MOVE THE BALL, and please, stop trash talking. The Celtics have been here before. This Knicks’ team collectively has no playoff resumé and does not yet hold the right to talk until they win a round. I think the whole funereal thing really taught this team a lesson, and put them back in their place. Tonight is going to be a huge test of character, and pride. Will the Knicks lay another egg in Boston and have to play probably the most microscopic game of their season in a do-or-die game seven? Or finish this tonight, and play the way we saw them play all of March and April, like they aren’t scared of anything. Depends on which team shows up. Just finish this tonight, Knicks. We will be rooting for you.
Fears of a seemingly inevitable implosion are fair at this point. Losing one game, on the road, to a veteran team facing elimination – well, that’s OK. Losing a second game in a row, on your homecourt – scary. Doing so after self-imposed blustering of what-if sweeps and opponent funerals. Unbearable.
Yes, despite the Knicks’ brazen boasts that tonight would be the end of Celtics’ series, it was quite the opposite. The Knicks are heading into the hostile home of an opponent they’ve let back into a seemingly done-and-dead series. A poor, stagnant offensive performance and too-little-too-late defensive boost put the Knicks in a hole too deep. There were several ill-fated attempts to come back – a few stops, followed by quick free throws or made baskets – but the Celtics had the assassin-like answer for each and everyone of these attempts. Now the Knicks must head up to Boston for Game 6 this Friday and try to steal one or else come back to New York facing the frightening prospects of becoming the first team to lose after leading a series 3-0.
The shocking part of this loss is the way the Knicks cooked their way to an early 11-0 lead. They came out with the clamps on a jumper-happy Boston offense and took advantage of the initial penetration opened up by Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls. A Pablo Prigioni three-pointer, Felton curl and elbow jumper, Iman Shumpert driving layup, Carmelo Anthony blow-by for a dunk – the Knicks’ offense was diverse and seemingly well-oiled. An early regrouping from Boston changed all of that, though.
It began with Brandon Bass leaking out in transition and making smart cuts to the basket off the double-team attention given to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Bass scored nine of the Celtics’ first 11 points and seemed to open the whole thing up. Boston began exploiting mismatches with Garnett and Pierce, they quickened the tempo, moved the ball, and began to get the shots they wanted. Meanwhile, after ‘Melo briefly cooked the Celtics on jumpers and dribble drives, the Knicks got stagnant, plagued especially by a wildly inaccurate J.R. Smith forcing shot attempts.
After beginning 11-0, Boston out-scored the Knicks, 20-11 the rest of the quarter. New York led 22-20 after the first.
The Knicks’ opening quarter lineup (part of a long line of questionable calls from Mike Woodson) hurt them. Kenyon Martin more or less got abused by Garnett, while on offense, the trio of Jason Kidd, Prigioni, and Smith failed to create any flow or momentum. Chandler and Anthony were quickly brought into the game, but the Celtics had already figured out their own attack: a quicker pace, more rapid ball movement, and continually taking advantage of the Knicks’ slow double-teams and poor rotations thereafter.
The Knicks fought for awhile, though. While Anthony and Smith remained ineffective, Felton’s basket-bound barrels were successful, and Chandler fought admirably on the boards to keep possessions alive. However, a late surge by the Celtics, and a collective fart by the Knicks, turned a back-and-forth, one- or two-point game into a sizable lead for Boston.
A turnover by Smith and missed layup, missed layups from Felton and Anthony, a shot-clock violation, in addition to free throws, layup, and a Jason Terry three blew the lead up to seven at the end of the first half. Boston led 46-39.
Despite a far better offensive performance in the third quarter (or at least a better offensive game plan), the Celtics’ offense was just better. Some of it was the Knicks’ fault, as they sent more shaky double-teams and consequently missed rotations, leaving shooters open. Other times, however, no matter, the coverage, the Celtics found a way to beat it. This was especially the case in a few laughable, bang-your-head-against-wall, turn-around, fade-away jumpers from Paul Pierce along the baseline and beyond the arc. Even when the Knicks closed out hard on Jason Terry, the Celtics’ shots were falling. Terry and Pierce combined for 18 of Boston’s 24 third-quarter points.
For the Knicks, the combined ineptitude of Anthony and Smith (who was oddly checked in less than four minutes into the quarter) was unlike anything they’ve demonstrated during the season. No matter the shot, range, or coverage, neither player could find nylon. Instead, the Knicks’ offense came almost solely from the unstoppable dribble penetration of Raymond Felton. Felton, whose been arguably the Knicks’ best player in the series, continued his stellar play by repeatedly torching any Celtic covering him. Off Chandler picks or his own handles, Felton dashed his way to the basket for layups on all angles, earning himself eight points and a lob assist in the quarter.
However, the Knicks closed the quarter poorly again, having not gained any ground on the Celtics, and by leaving Jason Terry open for another three-pointer, which he sank. Boston led 69-60 going into the fourth quarter.
Things got worse before they even got marginally better. From the end of the third quarter to the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, the Knicks didn’t score a point. On field goal attempts alone, the Knicks’ play-by-play at the start of the quarter goes as follows:
Smith 3pt shot: missed, Kidd driving jump shot: missed, Anthony driving layup shot: missed, Smith step back jump shot: missed.
Meanwhile, six quick points for the Celtics, punctuated by a slam by Jeff Green put the Knicks’ in a 15-point hole. The Knicks’ comeback attempts in response were highlighted by suddenly staunch defense led by Shumpert. Though the Celtics’ own suddenly lackluster offense helped the Knicks’ cause, Shumpert played
aggressive nay, ferocious, tight defense on Pierce, prompting other Knicks to increase ball pressure and attack the glass hard. Though New York’s offense never untangled itself, they drew fouls, stopped the clock, and tried to trickle away the lead with free throws.
However, the attempts were for naught. Several times the Knicks chipped away at the lead, but the Celtics had answers. First, after cutting it to eight points, a Brandon Bass spinning layup and Terry three pushed it back to 13. Later, back-to-back Jeff Green three-pointers kept the Celtics lead at 12. Then, when the Knicks made it a five-point game from quick baskets by ‘Melo and Smith, Garnett answered with a mid-range jumper with less than a minute to go.
- There’s a lot of debate as to whether the Knicks’ funeral talk and wearing black to a game really affected anything. To me, it had a psychological effect on the Celtics and it relaxed New York too much. Trash-talking with such bravado doesn’t have a place in a 3-1 series, especially for a team that hasn’t gotten out of the first round in over a decade.
- Carmelo Anthony’s shot was astray after the first quarter, but his aggressiveness waned, too. At times, he forced, and other times, he was too reluctant to attack. Over the last two games, he’s a combined 18-59 from the field – 30.5%.
- Let’s quickly acknowledge Felton. 21 points, 10-19 FG, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 TOs. He’s been the best Knick in this series, but that’s not the formula for winning. He needs to be the second or third best player, and Anthony and Smith haven’t stepped up.
- And yeah, hey, maybe a little less J.R. Smith? Perhaps he was rusty, just out-of-rhythm, or really, plain sucky – either way, Smith just brutalized the Knicks during his time on the floor. His shots almost never came in any kind of flow, and his 0-11 start was bringing up sour memories of a John Starks performance I don’t need to go to any length to explain. His third basket – one of three – came in the final seconds with the game’s fat already sealed.
- There was a post-game near-scuffle. Jordan Crawford – he of the DNP-CD tonight – can go back to the hole he crawled from. Luckily, the incident didn’t amount to anything.
- Hey, the Knicks’ bench was a combined -38 tonight!
- Marcus Camby played 58 seconds and he tipped a shot in. #SilverLinings
- Shumpert, in my opinion, played his best defense of his season tonight. He looked quick on his feet, hands-y, strong getting over screens, bumping players on dribble drives, and while he finished with 3 steals, he nearly came up with about three or four others on 50-50 balls. #ShumpertLinings
That’s it for now. Game 6 in Boston on Friday will not be a sane time or place for me and many other Knicks fans, I imagine.
Thanks in part to the frequently injured status of Amare Stoudemire, Mike Woodson has been forced to be very creative in his approach to lineup building this season. Using the talent pool available to him, he’s completely twisted the traditional point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center lineup into something uniquely special and effective. This has been especially challenging, due to the ever changing pool of available players on the team, but by the end of the season he’d found and shaped something special. The dilemma comes from trying to find a place for Steve Novak in this new Knickerbocker vision, or for that matter, Stoudemire, if and when he makes it back from injury.
Point Guard: Raymond Felton, JR Smith. New York starts a fairly traditional point guard in Felton. His job is to run pick and rolls, drive and score, drive and kick and stick the occasional three. If he can defend one of the other team’s guards reasonably well, so much the better. For most of the season, no one on the team seemed able to duplicate this role and the team struggled when Felton was playing hurt or not playing at all. Not only is Felton healthy now, Smith seems to have figured out that he should prioritize attacking the basket. While Smith is not considered one of the team’s point guards per say, when he’s on the floor and Felton isn’t, he’s the one that has been filling Felton’s role of bringing the ball up the court and attacking the basket. While Smith is obviously more of a scorer than a passer, Woodson seems to like having his point man be one of his primary scorers supporting Carmelo Anthony.
Shooting Guard: Pablo Prigioni, Jason Kidd. Woodson prefers to have two point guards on the floor whenever possible, which may be one of the reasons that New York had the fewest turnovers in the NBA this season. Since neither Kidd nor Prigioni have the ability to attack the rim that Felton and Smith have, they’ve played the role of off guard, helping facilitate the offense with their passing from the perimeter while spreading the floor with their three-point shooting. Another benefit of having Kidd or Prigioni on the floor all the time is their defensive acumen, which leads to numerous turnovers by the opposing team, often in the form of steals.
Small Forward: Iman Shumpert, JR Smith. Another reason why the Knicks have so few turnovers is instead of playing with two forwards, they play with three guards. Shumpert is versatile enough defensively to defend forwards and he can even rebound like one on occasion. His primary roles are to defend the opposition’s best perimeter player, provide a three point threat and occasionally attack the rim. One of the reasons Smith is the Sixth Man of the Year is his ability to fill multiple roles off the bench. In the fourth quarter when Felton and Kidd are manning the backcourt, Smith plays this role. While not quite the defender that Shumpert is, he makes up for it on the offensive end and by being an even better rebounder. Ronnie Brewer started the season filling this exact role, but as his play fell off and Shumpert returned from injury, he was sent to the end of the bench.
Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland. Using Melo at power forward is one of the biggest keys to the Knicks’ success on the offensive end this season. By having an elite perimeter player at the four, New York has opened up the paint for their pick and roll game which is a major part of their offense. Not only do Smith and Felton have extra room to attack the basket, but Melo gets mismatches which forces double teams and opens up New York’s options further. Having Melo or Copeland on the floor at the four gives them a primary scorer and makes it almost impossible for the opposition to prevent at least one of New York’s now four shooters from getting an open look from behind the arc. Melo’s transformation into an elite three-point shooter this season while playing the four has been a major part of why New York led the league in three-point attempts and makes. Unfortunately for Woodson’s lineup preferences, after a terrific regular season, Copeland has played so poorly in the playoffs that Woody was forced to use Novak at the four in game three instead.
Center: Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin. The role of the five for the Knicks is to backstop the defense, participate in the pick and roll with Felton and grab rebounds. With only one real big man on the floor at a time for New York, it’s critical that he be able to defend the rim/paint and rebound. By having the five be the screen and roller, it gives him an important role on the offensive end, while the rest of the team can be trying to get open from behind the arc. Rasheed Wallace filled this role behind Chandler at the beginning of the season, but fortunately for New York after most of their bigs got hurt, they discovered Martin, who has done an incredible job of filling this role off the bench.
So, Woodson has found a unique combination of roles that works well with his personnel and has enabled the Knicks to become an elite team. The problem is this carefully crafted system doesn’t really have a place for two highly paid forwards: Steve Novak and Amare Stoudemire.
Novak is a good enough three-point shooter to play the three or the four, but he’s not a good enough ball handler. Not only does Woodson use the three as an extra ball handler, he frequently has Melo bring the ball up the court and he runs isolations through Melo and even on occasion, Copeland. While big enough to play the five for New York, Novak doesn’t have the necessary skill set to be the primary defender in the paint. Frankly, other than being a terrific three point shooter, Novak brings very little to the table.
Last season, that was enough. Last season, Novak led the league shooting 47% from deep, while no one else on the team shot even 35% from three. Novak provided the team with essential and amazingly accurate three-point shooting. This season is much different. This season, Novak’s long range shooting is down to 42% and he’s one of eight Knickerbockers shooting 35% or better. While 42% is still quite good, Novak’s lone skill set is now being duplicated by several other players, all of whom bring lots of other things to the table. While the threat of Novak’s shooting helps spread the floor when he’s on the court, so does the threat provided by the Knicks’ other fours: Melo (38%) and Copeland (42%). If Copeland continues to be unable to work through the playoff jitters Novak may get some minutes this post-season, but his role with the team going forward is definitely in question.
This brings us to Stoudemire. Amare has a skill set that no one else on the team has: the ability to be a superior low post scorer. Unfortunately, Woodson has been forced to design an offense that not only doesn’t need a low post scorer, it may operate better without one. Woodson’s system requires the four to be a three-point shooter and the five to be a superior defender and rebounder. None of these things describe Stoudemire. Given STAT’s overall talent level and the team’s investment in him, I’m sure Woody will make some use of him when he gets healthy. I’m just not sure if that will be in the best interests of the team’s success, based on their performances this season.
Games 1 and 2 of the Knicks-Celtics series has shown the best sneakers by some of your favorite players. Between Carmelo Anthony’s brand spanking new Air Jordan Melo M9 Playoff Edition to the back-to-back appearances of the throwback Air Jordan 2, 5, and 8 unearthed by Quentin Richardson, pure sneaker gold has been touching the floor of Madison Square Garden. The only footwear possibly giving them some competition are Spike Lee’s custom Knicks-inspired Cole Haan shoes. Okay, maybe that’s like comparing apples to oranges. The Knickerbocker signature colorways are strong with this group though. Check out our roundup below and leave a comment with your favorite from the past two playoff games.
The New York Knicks will head up to Boston with a 2-0 lead over the Celtics. For the second straight game, the Knicks used a big second half, highlighted by stingy defense and efficient offense, to put the Celtics away, and seal the victory. After withstanding a strong second quarter from the Celtics, New York came out with a palpable, contagious energy to propel themselves to a double-digit lead. Led by Raymond Felton’s dribble penetration and Carmelo Anthony’s sudden precision from the field, the Knicks offense launched them back into the lead. Their stern defense, however, all but shut the Celtics down as Boston’s one-and-done arrhythmic jumpers continually clanged off the rim to the sound of their own flat-lining.
The series is far from over, especially as Boston returns to a vigorous home crowd, but for now, the Knicks are sitting pretty having dutifully protected their home-court advantage.
Both teams sputtered out of the gate, afflicted by their own general incompetence on both ends of the floor and some quick, continuous whistles from the referees. Noticeable immediately for the Knicks, however, was a seemingly more mobile Tyson Chandler and the return of Pablo Prigioni. In the early going, Chandler and the Knicks controlled the boards and Prigioni’s presence seemed to ease the Knicks stagnation on offense.
Said stagnation had a lot to do with the Celtics’ ability to blow up pick-and-rolls and Carmelo Anthony’s insistence on posting/facing up on defenders and settling for mid-range jumpers. When he attacked the basket – which he did at a decent rate – he was able to get to the free throw line, collecting critical fouls on the Celtic starters in the process. Raymond Felton got off to a good start, however, knocking down his first three-pointers of the game and turning the corner on screens to get to the paint for his own hoops or on kick-outs to teammates.his
J.R. Smith stole the show, though. Fresh off winning Sixth Man of the Year, Smith checked in, promptly dribbled the ball for ten seconds, passed up on passing, and opted for a double-pump, step-back jumper that hardly hit nylon. Smith continued his antics throughout the quarter, nailing more of his favorite fade-away jumpers, and spinning to the rack, and dumping off a beautiful pass for Kenyon Martin for the open slam. He punctuated it all by hitting one more deep jumper with six seconds to go, then forcing Paul Pierce into a turnover, and nailing a 30-foot three-pointer as time expired.
New York led 26-20 after the first quarter.
Through two games, so far, the Knicks have had one let-down quarter. In Game 1, it was the third quarter; in Game 2, it was the second. With most of the starters resting, the Knicks’ bench failed to generate momentum on offense while letting the Celtics get on a roll of their own. Smith’s magic seemed to run out, and Boston’s fortress-like defense forced the Knicks into a series of bad looks. On the other end, Boston pushed the pace, spread the floor, and punished the Knicks’ porous defense.
The turning point came early in the quarter with New York up five. A shot clock violation on the Knicks led to a basket by Jordan Crawford, followed up by a bad pass from Jason Kidd, and a jumper from Avery Bradley. Kenyon Martin turned the ball over on the ensuing possession which led to another layup from Bradley. Two missed jumpers in a row from Smith sandwiched a turn-around jumper from Kevin Garnett. To cap it all off, after yet another turnover, Jason Terry sank a pull-up three. Just like that, New York’s lead had been squandered into a four-point Boston lead.
Things didn’t get much better. Anthony checked back in and isolated and jab-stepped himself into a bevy of contested, missed jumpers. The Celtics kept coming on offense, ballooning their lead to nine twice as Paul Pierce took advantage of his sizable matchups with New York’s guards. The Knicks did a solid job closing the quarter, however, by rallying off five quick points so that they only trailed 48-42 at halftime.
Game 1 third quarter :: Game 2 second quarter as Game 1 fourth quarter :: _______ . You guessed it! The Knicks used a pivotal third quarter, just as they used a pivotal fourth quarter in Game 1 to recapture the game.
It began with Iman Shumpert knocking down two consecutive three-pointers to tie the game up. Later, after some free throws by ‘Melo, bedeviling the Celtics into foul trouble, a Felton drive put the Knicks up two. And the train kept-a-rollin’ from there. Prigioni and Chandler ran a pick-and-roll to get Chandler a layup and a foul (his only basket of the game). Anthony joined in on the fun, canning a three-pointer and then a posting up Jeff Green and hitting a difficult turn-around jumper along the baseline. Felton capped things off with crossover to get in the lane, pull-up, and hit a little floater. Just like that, New York’s 23-4 run to kick things off put them up ten, deflated the Celtics, and set the Garden crowd ablaze.
The defense was the key, though. Part of it was the Celtics’ own lack of energy, but the Knicks’ rotations were crisp all night, and in the third, their individual defense was on point. Boston tried to run their offense through Kevin Garnett, and while Chandler was slightly immobile against smaller players driving to the hoop, on Garnett’s post-ups, face-ups, and jumpers, Chandler contested very well. Boston became careless with the ball, and soon the whole team was thrown into an inescapable funk as the Knicks constricted tighter and tighter.
Anthony capped the Knicks’ explosive quarter by blowing by Garnett on a switch, and taking it to the rim for a dunk. The Knicks led 74-59 at the end of the third quarter.
The Knicks’ third quarter diligence did them well as they were able to sort of cruise through the fourth. One frightful stretch began with Steve Novak’s inability to cover Jordan Crawford, who scored five quick points, along with a Pierce three to cut the lead to nine. The Knicks rebounded quickly, however.
‘Melo flipped the switch again and splashed the net on three straight jumpers, mostly off the catch. The quick flurry all but eliminated Boston’s chances of coming back. More turnovers led to exciting moments like a Felton-Smith alley-oop on the break to put the Knicks back up 13. Kenyon Martin provided his fair share of excitement and tenacity with crowd-pleasing swats into the stands and his ensuing war cries.
Mike Woodson replaced Kidd, Anthony, and Felton in the last three or four minutes of the quarter and sent out the bench squad to ride out the victory. The crowd gave a thankful ovation as the Knicks took a 2-0 series lead over their long-time tormentors.
- The Knicks have now allowed a total of 48 points in the second halves of these two playoff games. 48. As our friend Jared Dubin points out, the Knicks’ second half defensive efficiency is 55.6, which would be the best, like, ever.
- Though Carmelo Anthony (34 points, 11-24 FG) and J.R. Smith (19 points, 7-15 FG) had the two explosive nights, I thought Raymond Felton was the key factor. In the first half, Felton was tentative to drive the lane, and was overly passive trying to distribute the ball. In the second half, Felton attacked the paint with gusto, and didn’t make, seemingly, a single mistake with the ball. He finished with 16 points on 8-15 FG, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and zero turnovers.
- Despite getting dunked on in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter, Kevin Garnett finished his third quarter by setting a very illegal, rough screen on Shumpert (didn’t get called), and then blocked Shumpert at the rim at the buzzer, and continued his constant barking. This made the Knicks’ double-digit comeback, and the Garden crowd’s “KG sucks” chants all the more delightful.
- Though the defense suffers because a guard is forced to cover Paul Pierce, it appears the Knicks’ only shot at running semi-fluid offense over the Celtics’ stern defense is to play two point guards at a time. The only real exception to this was the Knicks’ giant run to start the third quarter, though.
Th Knicks have two days off before playing the Celtics in Boston on Friday night. It’s somewhat expected that the Knicks will lose a game in Boston, but winning Game 3 would be very important to closing out the series. Historically, the team up 3-0 in the playoffs in the NBA, has won the series 100% of the time.
If we take an NBA snapshot right now, the Carmelo Anthony trade sure looks good for the Knicks. First, let’s review:
The Knicks gave up:
- Raymond Felton
- Danilo Gallinari
- Timofey Mozgov
- Anthony Randolph
- Wilson Chandler
- Eddy Curry
- 2014 draft pick
- Carmelo Anthony
- Renaldo Balkman
- Chauncey Billups
- Sheldon Williams
- Anthony Carter
- Corey Brewer
How are these players doing now?
Raymond Felton- At 28, Ray’s still in his prime. This season he’s averaging 14.1 points/game, while shooting 43%FG, 36% on threes and 79% from the line, all of which are above his career averages. His assists are down slightly, but so are his turnovers. The kicker, of course, is that he’s doing all this for the Knicks, not the Nuggets. To be fair to the Nuggets, they traded him away for Andre Miller, who’s giving them 10 points and 6 assists a game this season.
Danilo Gallinari- The 24 year-old was averaging 16 points and 5 rebounds a game this season, while showing signs that he might have the potential to eventually be an all-star. Unfortunately, he is currently out of the Nuggets’ lineup with a season ending knee injury.
Timofey Mozgov- The 26 year-old center has been unable to crack the Nuggets’ rotation, as he averages less than nine minutes a game.
Anthony Randolph- At 23 he still has time to blossom, but like Mozgov he’s languishing at the end of the Nugget’s bench averaging less than eight minutes a game. In the actual trade he was sent to the Timberwolves, who sent Kosta Koufos to Denver. The 23 year-old Koufos is giving the Nuggets 8 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Wilson Chandler- The 25 year-old Chandler is the actual only member of this trade really contributing to the Nuggets at the moment, putting up 12.5 points and 5 rebounds a game.
Eddy Curry- This was just about his expiring contract. He hasn’t played more than 14 games in a season since 2007-2008 and his career seems effectively over.
2014 draft pick- It remains to be seen who this will end up being, but the Nuggets used this pick to help them acquire 29 year-old Andre Iguodala, the one player on their roster who’s played in an all-star game (last season) and he’s averaging 13 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game.
Carmelo Anthony- At 28 Melo’s having the best season of his career, averaging a league best 28.7 points a game, along with 7 rebounds a game.
Renaldo Balkman- Out of the NBA.
Chauncey Billups- The 36 year-old is averaging 8 points a game for the Clippers. The Knicks amnestied his contract, which enabled them to sign 30 year-old center Tyson Chandler, who is currently the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and an all-star this season.
Sheldon Williams- Out of the NBA.
Anthony Carter- Out of the NBA.
Corey Brewer- The 26 year-old is back with Denver, where he’s averaging 12 points a game.
So, basically, the Knicks ended up with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, while the Nuggets have Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, Miller, Koufos and Iguodala. Both teams are headed to the playoffs this season. With Gallinari out for the season, Denver is currently getting 45 points and 21 rebounds a game from the players they got courtesy of the Knicks. Anthony and Chandler are giving the Knicks 39 points and 18 rebounds a game. While this seems to give the Nuggets a slight edge, you need to consider that Denver is getting that production from a total of five players and NY is getting almost as much from only two players. Both Anthony and Chandler made the all-star game this season and no one from the Nuggets made the Western Conference team.
Quality is a much bigger deal than quantity when it comes to NBA players. It’s not like the Knicks are being forced to play with less players than Denver. Players that give you 10 points and 5 rebounds a game are relatively easy to find. NY recently picked Kenyon Martin up off the NBA scrap heap and he averages 7 points and 5 rebounds a game. All-star quality players are obviously a much rarer and more precious commodity in the NBA.
While Denver is obviously hoping to change this, the NBA title has never been won by a team without an all-star player on the roster. Denver’s entire roster has one all-star appearance between them. It was made by Iguodala, but it was before he became a Nugget. Anthony and Chandler have seven all-star appearances between them and they were both selected this season.
While this trade looks great for the Knicks, it was good for Denver too. Melo wanted out of Denver, so they had to at least try to get something in return, rather than see him walk at the end of the season and get nothing. The Nuggets currently have five decent players under 30 years old on their roster because of this trade. Miller, Koufos, Chandler, Gallinari and Iguodala are a huge part of the reason they’re going to the playoffs this season and Denver already has more wins this season than their last full season with Melo on their roster. If Gallinari, Koufos or Chandler eventually has a career spike and becomes an all-star, this trade may be one of the best moves they’ve ever made, up there with drafting Anthony.
Yet the positive impact in New York has been much greater. In their last full season without Anthony on the roster, they finished 29-53. This season, thanks in large part to Anthony’s career year, they already have more than 50 wins and their first Atlantic Division title in almost 20 years.
In a league dominated by superstars, the Knicks found a way to acquire one without having to get lucky in the draft lottery. Since the 1986-87 season, nine different players have won the NBA scoring title. Six of them have helped their team win championships and two of the others, Kevin Durant and Allen Iverson, helped their teams reach the finals. There is a very good chance Carmelo Anthony will win the scoring title this season, now let’s see if he can help the Knicks make it to the Finals.
The Knicks are 10 games into the best stretch of basketball we’ve seen all season, and it doesn’t look like they are going to take their foot off the accelerator any time soon. Yes, there is lots of credit due to many players. Kurt, you of course, get the upmost respect from all of us Knicks fans for literally kick starting us (no pun intended on his foot injury) from the bottom to where we are now. I hope you feature in a coming re-make of Drake’s “Started from the bottom” anthem that really can explain the heroics you have contributed to this winning streak being where it is now.
Elsewhere, there is Kenyon Martin, who, like Lazarus, has risen from the abyss of the NBA onto the biggest stage of them all. Then there is Carmelo Anthony, who has just been insanely bonkers the past two games, scoring 90 points and only missing 20 shots. What about the last eight games before Anthony seemingly took the rim and made it two feet wider in front of our own eyes?
Ladies and gents, Raymond Felton and JR Smith.
Truly Carmelo’s backing of sorts through this 10 game tear of almost effortless basketball. Going back 17 days all the way to Salt Lake City, Felton and Smith have averaged a combined 17 points per game on 50% shooting from the field, enough to back a powerful first option in Anthony to 10 straight. Felton’s defensive prowess has also seen a rebirth, along with the rest of the Knicks. Over 10 games, he has about two steals per, and deferring just enough where it evens out with him also being able to find his own shot when called upon at an efficient 52% clip. It’s no shocker that Felton piled up nine assists against Miami, mostly to Anthony, which was his high over the winning streak. In about 33 minutes per game, Felton has not really had any terrible games and has been a crucial piece in New York’s winning ways.
Before the past two games, the man running the show was JR Smith, who has been playing some of the best basketball in his career since Utah. Swish is averaging 23 points and five rebounds over the past 10 games. Oh, and he’s shooting 48%. Who would of ever thought we’d see the day where Smith actually attempts fewer than five three pointers in a single game? It has paid off dramatically, seeing an increase of free throws and penetration, which spaces out the whole floor for the Knicks and really gives shooters opportunities to knock down shots at a higher rate. Although he has slightly veered off path from his three games when he scored 32, 35, and 37, shooting over 50% in all three, it is still extremely gratifying watching Smith play at the level he is playing at. A level that must be maintained heading into the playoffs for the Knicks to really silence a great deal of doubters.
Smith and Felton both have justifiably been a shoulder for Anthony and company to lean on as of late, and it has transmitted into win after win. It’s going to be a sight for sore eyes seeing the Knicks keep their level of intensity up for the rest of the year, and peaking at the best time possible with their supporting cast taking a step up. Lets just remember, we are here because of Kurt Thomas.
Stats from NBA.com.
Resting on the shoulders of an absolutely torrid Carmelo Anthony and a rejuvenated defense, the Knicks continued their hottest stretch in decades, winning their tenth in a row by using a dominant fourth quarter to blow up a close game. While neither New York nor Atlanta played their best basketball through the first three quarters, the teams went opposite directions in the final 12 minutes. The Knicks strung together several solid possessions on both ends of the ball, locking down Atlanta’s offense, and exploiting a defense keyed in on stopping Carmelo Anthony. Raymond Felton took advantage of this neglectful defense and repeatedly burned the Hawks in the pick-and-roll, getting to the basket for easy layups and organizing a Knicks offense that nearly doubled up the Hawks in the final quarter.
The Knicks opened the game in a little bit of a daze as they missed seven of their first eight shots, while Atlanta canned open threes, layups, and contested, improbable deep jumpers. Carmelo Anthony knocked down his first shot attempt, but struggled shortly thereafter, misfiring on some turn-around jumpers and failing to finish around the rim. J.R. Smith checked in early to give the Knicks’ offense a boost, but he, too, missed on several close attempts after working his way towards the paint off the dribble.
The Hawks, meanwhile, jumped out to a surprising 10-2 lead, before the fortunes switched. For Atlanta, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, and Al Horford began to eat up a majority of the Hawks’ possessions, bricking routine jumpers close and far, and bricking bunnies at the rim. For the Knicks, after an initial slow start, both Anthony’s work on offense began to pay dividends as he found success driving to the cup for layups and fouls, and eventually began snapping the net on some pull-up jumpers and catch-and-shoot three-pointers.
After one, the Knicks led 23-18.
The second quarter didn’t find either team executing their best, either. Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith kicked things off for both teams with five consecutive points, respectively, both hitting on three-pointers and jumpers off the dribble. Shortly after, however, points became hard to come by. Kyle Korver oddly missed on his most wide open looks from beyond the arc while the rest of the Hawks’ thin bench failed to generate much offense at all. J.R. Smith continued to do the lion’s share of the work, but the Knicks had almost nothing to show for it.
As both starting units came back into the game with a little more than half the quarter remaining, the heat turned up again. Anthony promptly returned to disregarding whoever put their hands in his face, and was able to score on a variety of pull-up jumpers and aggressive takes to the basket. Korver made up for his misses from deep by exploiting a shaky perimeter defense and hitting jumpers off the bounce or just taking it directly to the cup.
While the Hawks’ offense was hardly scorching, the Knicks once again exhibited bad tendencies on switches and doubles, and just plain slow-footed defense on the perimeter that allowed the Hawks to get easy baskets when they actually executed. Also, once again, Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony failed to hit open looks they received from the defensive attention being paid to ‘Melo who remained blistering.
The Knicks, however, were still able to build their lead in the quarter – a testament to the Hawks’ general listlessness – and went into halftime leading 47-40.
The third quarter found Carmelo Anthony at his tip-toppest offensive form while the Knicks’ defense took a collective nosedive. Kyle Korver continued to be the Hawks’ only consistent form of offense, while everything on that end of the floor went through ‘Melo for New York.
Anthony kicked things off with an offensive rebound and layup after a missed three from Prigioni. He then operated in the pick-and-roll a bit and found Prigioni with a kick-out pass for an open three on the elbow. Later, Anthony welcomed Josh Smith and the Hawks’ sturdiest defense by simply netting difficult turn-around jumpers and splashing one- and two-dribble pull-up jumpers over out-stretched hands. Even when Smith managed to deflect the ball out of Anthony’s hands, he was able to regain possession along the baseline before it went out of bounds, and launch a 20-footer that didn’t even touch rim. 15 of the Knicks’ 21 third-quarter points came through Anthony, either by shooting or by passing.
The same lackluster defense remained for the Knicks, however, and Atlanta was actually able to work their way back to take the lead at certain points. Korver managed nine points, all on threes, in the quarter, and gave the Knicks, particularly Iman Shumpert fits, as he benefited from the space given to him off the Knicks’ needless switching and doubling. In one stretch, Shumpert left Korver open for a corner three, then proceeded to get blocked by Korver on a pull-up jumper attempt. Shump then rotated and closed out slowly on Deshawn Stevenson who scooped in for a layup and a foul on Kenyon Martin.
Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack also gave the Knicks problems as they scooted into the paint and took advantage of the Knicks’ general lack of size down low (Chandler sat out for most of the quarter, appearing in pain). The two teams traded baskets back and forth, capped off by a stepback jumper from J.R. Smith to beat the buzzer and tie the game up at 68 heading into the fourth quarter.
Once again, heading into a pivotal final quarter, the Knicks pulled themselves together, this time basically running over the Hawks. It began with far more aggressive perimeter defense, and some handsy deflection and steals in the pick-and-roll, as seen the previous night in Miami. Felton (who’d been quiet heading into the fourth) picked Mack’s pocket and went coast to coast for a layup. Smith, sensing his size advantage on Atlanta’s smaller guards, went back to work off the dribble, and spun and twisted his way for some easy, close buckets. Careless passes coupled with a feisty New York defense led to copious amounts of Atlanta turnovers; the cough-ups just kept piling up and giving New York more chances to score.
While ‘Melo sat, Felton took the reins of the offense and punished a lackadaisical Atlanta defense. Three straight times, Felton squiggled his way through the defense off the high pick-and-roll and finished at the rim for mostly uncontested layups. Quickly, the Knicks built their lead up to eight. Then, Anthony checked in.
The Hawks’ defense was already spread thin, but Anthony’s presence only furthered their problems. After checking in and executing a post-up-spin-off-alley-oop with Jason Kidd, the Hawks focused their efforts almost solely on Anthony. The Knicks used this defensive attention to get Smith going. On one gorgeous sequence, Anthony sucked in the defense, threw a cross-court pass to Smith, who blew by the later-arriving closeout, and took it in for a two-handed jam.
The Knicks built up their lead to double-digits and were slowly able to ride the game out, punctuating it with a baseline jumper from Anthony that gave him a 40-point follow-up to his 50-point explosion the night before.
- Simply stunning work from Carmelo Anthony. In his last 81 minutes, he’s netted 90 points on 35-53 shooting from the field, almost all of those coming from outside of the paint. The man is in a rhythm like never seen before while he’s worn a Knicks uniform, and his offense has been good enough to carry the Knicks through some comatose starts. It’ll be interesting to see if ‘Melo can continue to get off to hot starts (he’s scored 81 of his total points in the first three quarters of the last two games), and attract opposing defenses so much that it allows other Knicks to get hot in the fourth quarter. It’s not an ideal attack, but there isn’t a hotter player in the NBA right now.
- To speak to the above point: Smith and Felton finished with a combined 33 points on 15-31 FG. In the fourth quarter they were a combined 9-11 from the field for 19 points.
- The buzzkill in all of this is that Chandler isn’t physically right, and now Kenyon Martin’s knee is “sore” which means he’s moments away from losing a lower limb entirely.
- Those fourth-quarter Hawks turnovers that I mentioned before – seven of them in the final 12 minutes. Some of it was pesky defense from the Knicks, some of it was carelessness from Atlanta.
- Tom Izzo randomly joined the ESPN broadcast in the second quarter and spoke pretty glowingly of about every person mentioned during his air-time. This was very different than what I imagined Tom Izzo to be like in person.
- Fun sequence in the 4th quarter: J.R. Smith fronts Josh Smith in the post, gets a steal, races down court, trips over his own feet, turns it over, DeShawn Stevenson picks up the ball, races down court, gets discombobulated between passing and dribbling, turns it over.
I’m not sure how I could handle a seven-game series between the two teams, but the Knicks, in both meetings, were able to out-execute the Hawks in the fourth quarter, and come up with the win both at home and on the road. If the two teams were to meet in the playoffs, as of right now, it’d bode well for the Knicks. New York will look to continue their streak when they face the Milwaukee Bucks at home on Friday.
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter: @WScottDavis
Well, they’ve done it. The Knicks have clinched a playoff spot. Now I can finally stop holding my breath, I can shave my “they’re-not-in-the-playoffs-yet” beard and I can dump my girlfriend. That last one might not have much to do with the Knicks, but I like to share. Speaking of sharing, now that the boys are officially in the playoffs, I’ve decided to get some other things off my chest, too. I’m sure the Knicks know and care that I think they’re all heroes for getting us to the promised land, but there is still lots of work to do. While each of the Knicks seems to have found a way to contribute something positive this season, each of them also seems to have a fatal flaw which has hurt the team on occasion. So, I’ve decided to make a Knicks wish list, wherein I list the one thing I would wish for/from each member of the team to give us the best chance of success in the postseason.
Carmelo Anthony - Don’t be a hero. Melo has become a surprisingly complete player this season, but even he has a fatal flaw. He wants to win so badly and he wants to be the hero so badly that he will sometimes make bad choices that end up hurting the Knicks. So no more playing hurt when he should be resting up and no more forcing tough contested shots when things aren’t clicking for the team on offense. We need a healthy Melo that trusts his teammates and sticks to the plan on offense even when things aren’t going great.
Tyson Chandler - Stay on the court. By which I mean get/stay healthy and stay out of fights and foul trouble. I love that you’re such a rambunctious tough guy Tyson, but we really need you to keep out of trouble.
Raymond Felton - Pass first, attack the rim second and shoot jumpers last. This may seem like pretty obvious stuff for a point guard, but Ray’s shooting under 42% from the field and it’s due largely to him taking difficult two point shots when he should be finding a way to dish or get to the rack.
Iman Shumpert - Be aggressive. Alright Shump, you seem to have fixed your three point shot as you’re now hitting on close to 40% of them after only hitting around 30% last year, nice work. So why is your overall field goal percentage down to just 36%? It seems like you need to attack the rim more, like you did last year. While you’re at it, let’s see more attack mode on D as well. Last season you were someone we counted on to shut down the opposing team’s best perimeter player and we need to see more of that kind of defense this season.
Jason Kidd - Find your shot again. Look Jason, we all lose things, so let’s think about this: where were you standing the last time you remember having your shot? The good news here is that after an epic slump from three-point land, Jason has recently been showing signs that he’s over it. At this point in his career, Kidd’s game actually has quite a few flaws, but he finds lots of ways to compensate and cover for most of them. Being able to reliably nail open threes is a crucial part of old man Kidd’s game now though and if the Knicks are going to make noise in the playoffs, he needs to keep working with shooting guru Dave Hopla and making sure he doesn’t misplace his three point shot again.
Amare Stoudemire - Get back in shape in time. STAT is the Knicks’ X-factor for the playoffs. If he’s healthy and in playing shape like he was right before he got injured, then suddenly anything’s possible come playoff time. Remember the way he dominated the beginning of the fourth quarter against the Heat before Woody inexplicably benched him? Yeah, we need that.
JR Smith - Play intelligent, fully engaged basketball. At this point, nobody can really question Smith’s talent. The question is his focus and judgment. When JR is focused on the defensive end, he can give the Knicks a real perimeter stopper. On the offensive end, he needs to stop forsaking team offense so frequently in favor of crazy, low percentage, step back, two-point jumpers. When Smith is taking open jumpers off the catch or attacking the rim, he’s an incredible weapon, but when he’s constantly freelancing, he frequently digs big holes for the Knicks.
Steve Novak -Find a second skill set. Not only is Novak the Knicks’ best three-point shooter, but he’s one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. That’s why he has a job in the NBA and he averages 20 minutes a game. He may be one the ten best shooters in the entire galaxy, but he really needs to find a second skill set. I realize it might be asking too much for Steve to become an elite or even solid defender, but what about developing a two-point game to compliment his three-point game? Like Shump, Steve actually has a higher percentage from three than he does overall. This means that teams only need to guard him at the arc and can and often do otherwise ignore him. Get on that Steve!
Pablo Prigioni - Just shoot already! At close to 39%, Pablo is one the Knicks’ best three-point shooters. Someone needs to inform Pablo of this though. No more looking left, right, up and down before deciding it’s safe to shoot. You’re not crossing the street Pablo and you don’t need to check with anyone when you’re wide open, just shoot like you’re confident that it will go in and things will be great.
Kenyon Martin - Keep up the good work. Kenyon is playing so far beyond reasonable expectations, that I feel that it would be absurd to ask for anything else but more of the same at this point.
Chris Copeland - Work on your defense. Cope is a special talent on offense, able to score and score efficiently in a variety of ways. Yet he doesn’t get much playing time, because coach Woody considers him a liability on defense. Cope realized that being a great offensive player will get you a job in the NBA, now he needs to realize that being at least a decent defender is what’s required to get him more playing time.
Rasheed Wallace - More healthiness, less three-point shooting. Given how long Sheed has been out of the lineup, getting healthy is a given, so I’m adding a second wish: stop shooting so many threes. Sheed is a stopper on defense and he has the skills to be a post threat, but he wastes too many offensive possessions with his love of the three ball, which wouldn’t be quite so bad if his shot wasn’t so bad (32%).
Marcus Camby - Find your game. So far this has been a lost season for the former defensive player of the year. When he’s gotten onto the court his offense has been completely missing: 31% FG%, down from 48% last season and he hasn’t established enough dominance on defense or on the boards to maintain a spot in the rotation, even with the Knicks seriously hurting for bigs.
James White - Recover your swagger. While White is far from an accomplished NBA player, we could always depend on him for self-confidence and swagger. Who can forget his epic trash talk leading up to the Slam Dunk contest? Unfortunately, the dunk contest seems to have been overly humbling for White. Ever since his ignominious performance (or lack of performance) at the dunk competition, Flight White has been grounded. In the starting lineup against Miami to help defend against the Heat’s elite wings, he looked lost and desperate, seemingly always a step behind the game. It didn’t take long after that for him to fade from the starting lineup all the way to very end of the bench where Sheed leaves his used chewing gum. He’s recently shown a little bit of life in garbage time and if he can learn to shine during meaningful minutes, he may yet have a shot to stay in the NBA after this season.
Kurt Thomas - Rehab, rehab, rehab. While Kurt hasn’t seen many minutes this season, he’s delivered when called upon. The defense is still there and though his offensive is somewhat one dimensional, at least it’s consistent. Thus I can only ask/hope/wish that he gets better soon.
Mike Woodson - Manage those minutes. Based on his short tenure in NY, Woody is a sensational coach who deserves to be part of the coach of the year conversation. I just ask that he find more rest for his older players and his overworked stars. JR, Tyson and Carmelo have all played over 2000 minutes this season, despite the fact that JR is a reserve, Chandler has missed five games and Melo 13. You’ve clinched the playoffs coach, as much as playoff seeding matters, it won’t matter at all if the Knicks’ key players have all broken down.