No Melo. No JR. No Felton. No Chandler. No K-Mart. It felt ugly just to write that, so you can imagine how disjointed last night’s game was with most of the Knicks starters resting. The Knicks were still able to come out on top behind the offense of Chris Copeland to take a season series sweep over the Hawks with a 98-92 win.
YET ANOTHER INJURY: Does it ever stop? Pablo Prigioni was manning the point and doing a great job of moving the ball for open shots (the Knicks shot 50% in the first quarter). And even better, Pablo had the green light and was gunning from three.
Disaster struck when he went bassline and sprained his right ankle. The X-rays were negative, but Prigioni didn’t return and the offense suffered with Iman Shumpert forced to play point guard. There’s no word yet on if he’ll have to sit out the playoff opener on Saturday against Boston.
SHUMP SETTLES DOWN: Shumpert had a real tough time with point guard duties. He couldn’t penetrate consistently so a lot of times the ball remained stuck on the perimeter with long jumpers or isos to Copeland.
The offense pretty much stayed that way until a minor Copeland left shoulder injury forced others to contribute. Shump was then able to start getting in the lane and finishing for layups and finding James White for jumpers. The pair connected for a nice fast break alley oop that pushed the lead to 93-78 late in the fourth.
FIND YOUR SHOT, NOVAK: Steve Novak got a lot of good looks yesterday but couldn’t hit anything (going 0-6 in the first half). He wouldn’t score until the closing minutes of the fourth and got a sarcastic applause from the crowd when his three-pointer gave the Knicks a 98-86 lead.
Since Novak is a huge liability on defense, if he isn’t scoring he’ll need a firm seat on the bench in these upcoming playoff games.
THE “NEW OLD KNICKS:” This game marked the return of two Knicks from the franchise’s dark ages in Earl Barron and Quentin Richardson.
Barron must have seen what happened to Solomon Jones because he started fast in scoring the first few points and eating up rebounds. He came back to earth real quick and we started to see his liabilities, namely a penchant for fumbling passes. He’s a big body though and in spots he can be effective, as evidenced by the fact he had 18 rebounds to go with 11 points.
Quentin Richardson hit his first shot, a three-pointer, and promptly did the “three to the head” taunt. After that he missed his next 10 shots. His defense was mostly solid and he nabbed 10 rebounds, so if that holds I’ll be ok with this signing.
COPELAND THE THIRD OPTION: Copeland dropped a career-high 33 points and was the reason the Knicks held the lead the full game. When the Hawks would get within the 3-5 point deficit range, Cope would secure a bucket inside or a three-pointer. His job was made harder by the fact no one else on the Knicks could create their own shot.
We already know in the playoffs that Melo and JR will carry the bulk of the offensive load. But for the Knicks to really go deep, there needs to be a third scorer in there. Copeland has proved over these last two games that he’s versatile enough to be that guy.