With Christmas being a disappointment courtesy of the Lakers, yesterday evening’s game against the Phoenix Suns was supposed to be an easy bounce back game. We had already bested them by a comfortable margin earlier in the season. That meant nothing as the Suns played inspired ball behind Jared Dudley, who dropped a career-high 36 points. But in the end, it was key defensive stops and timely buckets that lifted this depleted Knicks squad to a much-needed road win.
JR SMITH DOES IT AGAIN: Not only did JR hit the game-winner with just a second left, but the man from St. Benedict’s Prep also hit a contested circus shot the possession before to tie the game. If the latter shot doesn’t go in, we lose this game. Smith never lost his confidence despite bad shooting early in the game. Coach Woodson knew our chances of winning hinged on Smith breaking out at some point and that’s exactly what happened. Smith was also great on defensive with key fourth quarter steals and deflections. His stat line was awesome with 27 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and 6 rebounds off the bench. JR showed a bit of his nasty side too in taking out Goran Drajic.
JASON KIDD REMAINS YOUNG AT HEART: J-Kidd is our glue and proved it again last night with a phenomenal game on both ends of the floor. He mixed up his attack with three pointers (5-8) and driving to the basket. His 23 points were sorely needed, but his biggest contribution was on the defensive end during the last possession for the Suns with the game tied at 97. Kidd caused a deflection which lead to Telfair stepped out-of-bounds And with the game on the line, Kidd delivered a perfect inbounds pass to Smith and the rest is history.
CHANDLER AND CAMBY DELIVER THE 1-2 PUNCH: Candler shook of his bad Christmas game with an excellent effort (14 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and just 2 fouls). Our rebounding normally goes in the trash can when Tyson sits, but Camby showed why he’s another invaluable pickup, notching 9 rebounds (4 offensive) in just 13 minutes! Camby is still rusty in regards to finishing around the rim and passing, but his defensive presence and rebounding is all we need from him right now. And lo and behold, with Camby playing well the Knicks win the rebounding battle 41-38.
BAD DEFENSE WE CAN LIVE WITH: Yes, seeing Jared Dudley drop 36 was annoying, but with several backups having to give heavy minutes with our injuries, we’ll have to live with it. Copeland got burned a few times with pump fakes, but he also made key buckets with his 14 points. With Steve Novak still struggling, another scorer was key to spreading the floor and Copeland was it.
While I’m not a fan of these down to the wire games against lowly competition, they serve as great confidence builders for our bench and can only help with poise when the playoffs come. Don’t get content, Miami. NY is still right on your heels in the standings.