On the second night of a road back to back, the Knicks had every reason to pack this one in. What we received was another stellar performance from Carmelo Anthony. And even more importantly, our superstar got to lay back in the fourth quarter while others stepped up to put the Atlanta Hawks out of their misery. The Knicks win streak has now hit double digits and with this play, it might not be stopping anytime soon.
MELO CARRIES THE LOAD THROUGH THREE: After a quiet 1-4 shooting start, Melo erupted for 13 points in the first quarter and 24 points by halftime. Unlike last night’s 50 point game, which was exclusively on perimeter jumpers, Melo went inside out on Josh Smith, who was completely hapless on defense. When the Hawks doubled, Melo didn’t force it and kicked out to the open man. Unfortunately, most of the open looks from Jason Kidd, JR Smith and Raymond Felton weren’t being converted on, which allowed the Hawks to hang around.
Atlanta took a brief lead in the third behind Kyle Korver’s hot shooting (25 points, six three-pointers), but the Knicks never allowed Atlanta to get more than a point or two in front.
While it was awesome watching Melo torch Smith, you began wondering if he would have any gas left for the fourth, as he had to 36 of the Knicks’ 68 points headed into the final stanza.
FELTON AND JR COME ALIVE: Wondering how the Knicks walked out of Atlanta with a double-digit lead with Melo only scoring four points in the fourth? That falls on Felton and Smith, who combined for an astounding 20 points on 9/12 shooting. Both had been struggling with their shots, but everything came together when it mattered. Felton attacked the lane fearlessly for repeated layups due to the Hawks defense focusing too closely on Melo. And JR, who couldn’t finish at the rim for nothing in the previous three quarters, was now shaking Hawks players at will for short jumpers and a dagger three late that put New York up 87-76. The life had been sucked out of the Hawks and JR added some more dirt to their grave by blowing past Josh Smith for a two-handed slam. Smith finished with 19 points while Felton contributed 14.
THE ROUGH SPOTS: The second and third quarter were frustrating to watch as the Knicks were giving the Hawks unnecessary life. The main culprit that stood out was Iman Shumpert. He made the repeated blunder of sagging off Kyle Korver and getting burned for three-pointers. This was why Coach Woodson elected to go with Jason Kidd to close out the fourth. It ended up being a wise decision, as Kidd was huge in shutting down Korver and keeping the ball moving to the tune of 7 assists (the best being a alley oop slam to Melo in the fourth). Kidd also protected the boards with 5 rebounds.
WOUNDED WARRIOR: Tyson Chandler is jsut two games into his return froma bulging disc in his neck. Last game he complained of stiffness, and tonight he was seen holding his left clavicle area after a rebound in the first half. Although he didn’t have much in the way of points (2) or rebounds (4), he did a good job of keeping Al Horford nullified (9 points, 7 rebounds).
90 POINTS IN 24 HOURS: Let’s get back to Melo. The man’s stat line in the last 24 hours is 35/53 (8/12 from downtown) for 66% shooting, Nearly everything was within the flow of the offense and he made the right passes when needed. When you hear people say Melo is the best scorer in the NBA, these are the games that support that opinion. And I’ll go on record as predicting he’ll have a monster April and take his first scoring title.
MSG SOUTH: The Knicks are 6-1 over their last seven meetings with the Hawks. Once again, the Hawks had their arena turned into MSG South. It was downright embarrassing how loud the Knickstape faithful chanted “MVP!” for Melo in the fourth as he capped the evening with 40 points. If it wasn’t for the court colors, you’d swear they were playing in at the original Madison Square Garden.
Does the streak hit 11 games? We’ll find out on Friday when the Knicks head back home to face the Bucks.[youtube http://youtu.be/2dJPoI3aHQk]