That’s the worst feeling in the world, someone takes the game away from you, especially something you love. It’s all you know, you’ve been doing it your whole life. – JR SMITH
It took only one game for JR Smith to get his mind right (for now). Our knucklehead two-guard came off the bench in the second quarter and has his best 12 minutes of the season, scoring 11 points and dishing 4 assists to help ignite a 25-6 run and power the Knicks to their fourth-straight win. The Knicks are now poised to start climbing the playoff ladder.
SLUGGISH START AND OPEN PAINT: Melo had to sit early with two fouls and without their leader, the Knicks were sluggish all-around. No Tyson Chandler again (flu) had the paint wide open with the young Sixer guards like Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten blowing past our defenders for easy layups. The Knicks were only shooting around 35% despite getting open looks and not defending the three-point line, allowing for the Sixers to take a 28-20 lead after the first.
JR’S SPARK: The team did a complete 180 with JR in the lineup to start the second. JR nailed his first three jumpers (one a three off a Melo offensive rebound), and everyone’s energy picked up. JR made sure to make the extra passes needed to keep Stoudemire and Melo feasting on the Sixer defense. When the smoked cleared, the Knicks had went on a 25-6 run over the last 8:40 and outscored Philly 32-12 in the period to take a 52-40 lead into halftime.
NEVER PUT AWAY, BUT NEVER BACK IN IT, EITHER: The Knicks never delivered the crushing blow to blow this game open, but they never lost focus enough to let Philly back in it. The latter was great to see considering NY has blown numerous big leads all season. The Knicks were up 84-68 after the third and let the Sixers get no closer than 8 points in the waning two minutes of the game.
REBOUNDING IMPROVEMENT: With Chandler out, the Knicks are making a concerted effort to crash the boards. Everyone chipped in to give NY a slight edge in the board battle (39-38): Melo (9), Martin (8) and Shumpert (7) were the strongest in this department.
STOUDEMIRE CONTINUES TO TURN BACK THE CLOCK: Someone must have told Amar’e it was 2009, because he came out and stayed in beast mode the entire night. He made his first seven shots, which included a handful of nasty dunks. His post moves were crisp and he fought for rebounds, often tipping it to fellow players when he couldn’t get it himself. We saw this same Stoudemire before he went down with knee problems last year so we can only pray he stays healthy. None of the teams we’ve played during this streak have had an answer for him. And even more promising is he’s doing a lot of his damage working two-man ball with Melo on the floor. Stat finished with 21 points and 5 rebounds.
TEAM DISTRIBUTION: The Knicks had 26 assists, a clear indicator the ball stayed moving. The stat lines for everyone were great with no one carrying too much of the load: Melo (18 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists), Stat (21 points, 5 rebounds), JR (14 points, 6 assists), K-Mart (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks), Shump (7 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals), Felton (9 points, 6 assists) and Bargnani (10 points, 4 rebounds).
The Knicks are back home on Monday to face the Phoenix Suns.