MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY –After the high that was Friday’s beatdown of the NBA champion Miami Heat, there were a few select detractors amongst the media (this pathetic ESPN article by Ian Connor being the main culprit), that the Knicks big win was simply an aberration at best and at worst an indication of “fool’s gold.” Today’s matinée against the Sixers proved the Knicks are indeed a team with renewed focus, as they’ve improved on shot efficiency while maintaining excellent defense in a 100-84 win.
The Knicks opened up with good outside shooting again spurred by excellent ball movement. In what is hopefully a continued trend, Carmelo Anthony was tenacious on defense and got a standing ovation from the MSG faithful for a Charles Oakley-like dive into the stands. Outside of a few forced alley oops that lead to turnovers, the Knicks stayed strong and lead after one 31-25.
The bench, lead by Jason Kidd and JR Smith, had strong performances throughout the second. An out-of-bounds bassline pass from Kidd to Smith lead to a 3 pointer that ballooned the lead to 10, and Melo continued having a field day at the expense of Thaddeus Young, freezing him with a vintage spin move for a three-point play opportunity. Our 35-year-old guard Pablo Prigioni was productive as well in drawing charges on Nick Young and getting a steal that lead to a Novak trey. At halftime, the Knicks were sitting on a 57-44 lead after holding Philly to just 19 points in the second quarter.
The third was not as fluid; the offense started to stall badly around the eight-minute mark. Luckily, JR Smith was the spark with a few bailout jumpers on 4-7 shooting to keep the lead at 9. Nonetheless, Philly had some encouragement on the lights out 3 point shooting from Jrue Holiday (who went 5-6 and finished with 27 points).
A few more Smith 3s off steals from Prigioni and Kidd would help seal the deal in the fourth. In addition, Melo’s post game couldn’t be handled by the Bynum-less Sixers (Thaddeus Young fouled trying to keep up with Melo). And in a final “victory cigar” for us Knick fans, Chris Copeland got his first NBA points and Rasheed Wallace hit a nice post-up hook shot.
The final stat lines were great across the board. On defense, the Knicks forced 18 turnovers, had 12 steals and 5 blocks. On offense, the Knicks shot 50% from the field (39-77) and 40% from downtown (11-27). And our star Melo was able to drop 27 on 10-18 shooting. Consider that against the Heat, he went for 30 but needed 10 more shots to do it. JR Smith was great in dropping 20 points, grabbing 9 boards and 2 steals. 18 years into his career, Jason Kidd continues to show was he can be invaluable to any team. His stat line for today was 12 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals.
Unfortunately, we won’t have long to celebrate as tomorrow night the Knicks head to the Wells Fargo Arena (MSG West) for their first back to back of the season. This is the epitome of a “trap game” as the Sixers will be highly motivated to get revenge on their home floor after getting worked today. But with Bynum still out and now Jason Richardson likely gone with that ankle injury, the Knicks had a very good chance of starting this season 3-0 since God knows when.
Until tomorrow night, Knicks fans…