By Max Marcilla – Knickswag Contributor
Knicks 111 Bobcats 102
Tonight’s game was almost identical to Wednesday’s game when the Knicks defeated the Memphis Grizzlies. Wednesday, the Knicks scored 37 in the first quarter and 69 in the first half. Tonight the Knicks scored 38 in the first and also 69 in the half. However, not all of the similarities were positive. A negative comparison that could be made to what happened in the Memphis game was the fact that both games, New York gave up a 30-point lead and their opponent closed the lead to single digits. Despite those runs, the Knicks still ended up winning and holding on in the final minutes 111-102.
I don’t believe that the second half struggles is something to worry about. I think the Knicks get relaxed in their ball movement and their shots stop falling, but in the long run, the second half drought is not a trend that will continue, or so we hope.
The optimist in me wants to feel confident about tonight’s game, specifically the results in the first half.
First off, it isn’t Carmelo Anthony playing like the Knicks MVP (even though he’s playing well- I’ll get to him later) but it is J.R. Smith who is looking like the Knicks MVP. For the first time since 1990, a bench player scored 30+ points, as Smith scored 37. The 7 game winning streak has been sparked by Smith, who has been playing the best basketball in his lifetime. The big flaw in Smith’s game was obvious in the early season; he didn’t know how to take a good shot. Smith would take off-balance shots after complicated crossovers, leading to an excessive amount of air balls and bricks. During this 7 game winning streak, Smith has made it a priority to take good shots and drive to the basket. He has shot over 50% from the field in 6 straight games. When Smith is over 50%, the Knicks are 27-4, an astounding stat.
During the streak, Smith isn’t the only one to step up noticeably. Iman Shumpert has played some of the best ball of his short career. He has struggled in the second half in limited minutes, but in the first quarters of the past wins, he has been incredible. Tonight, he only played 26 minutes, but ended up with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Since returning from ACL surgery, he has struggled defensively- up until the beginning of this current streak. Now he looks as good as he ever did, resulting in an important rotational player for the present and the future.
The Knicks have also gotten great play from their guards. Prigioni has started every game in the winning streak and has propelled the Knicks to an efficient start almost every game. Raymond Felton has shot the ball well as of late (7/11 tonight) and has had a big impact defensively, as tonight he had 3 steals. Jason Kidd only made one shot, but as he has been doing all season, he passed the ball well with 3 assists, while grabbing 7 rebounds.
Lastly, Carmelo Anthony is back to MVP form. Since returning from his knee-draining procedure, Melo has scored at least 20 points in every game, including 30 in two of them (32 tonight). He has struggled with his shot the last few games, but he is still contributing to the team with volume points and quick decisions on offense. The Knicks ball movement has (surprisingly to some) been just as good if not better since he returned from the injury.
Looking forward, the Knicks next game is against the rival Celtics. The Knicks beat the Celtics by 15 in their last meeting earlier in the week and I expect them to duplicate their performance. They looked really good, as they hit their shots, played solid defense (holding Boston to 85 points) and they moved the ball as good as they have done all year. With Boston struggling and facing multiple injuries, I don’t see how the Celtics can stop the streaking Knicks. I see the Knicks extending their winning streak to 8, behind the play of J.R Smith and Carmelo Anthony.
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