Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
With the world champion Cavaliers on deck for Madison Square Garden tomorrow, the Knicks’ challenge was being unfocused for tonight’s game against an injury-hampered Heat.
They were for about 24 minutes. Then talent and focus took over.
Carmelo Anthony poured in a season-high 35 points, and five other Knicks hit double figures to extend the Knicks’ winning streak to four ahead of tomorrow’s big Eastern Conference showdown. The “old Knicks” would have blown this game, but this team is playing with confidence.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Aside from Melo’s 35 points, the other starters came through. Melo started 2/8, but Derrick Rose carried the first quarter scoring load with 8 points. Porzingis had another subpar shooting night (6/15), but once again his defense and 12 rebounds picked up the slack.
Foul trouble aside, Joakim Noah had his best game in a long time (10 points, 10 rebounds). He battled on even terms with Hassan Whiteside and got three tip-ins. If not for picking up his fourth foul by 8:29 in the third, we might have put this game away early.
O’QUINN, THOMAS AND JENNINGS LEAD THE BENCH: Kyle O’Quinn had no fear against Whiteside. He had 2 blocks at the rim on the Miami star and a couple dunks. There was some jawing back and forth, which I loved. O’Quinn had 12 points which 5 of his 7 rebounds coming on the offensive end. O’Quinn nor anyone else could stop Whiteside (23 points, 14 rebounds), but it was in vain with him being a -24 in 38 minutes.
Lance Thomas was superb in his 21 minutes with 11 points. He hit 2 threes, then did damage from mid-range off catch n’ shoots and fakes. His defense isn’t on last year’s level yet, but his offense coming around is a welcome surprise.
Despite getting yelled at by Coach Hornacek for not shooting when open, Jennings still manned the offense well with 9 assists in 24 minutes, including a buzzer beating layup to end the third. With Rose forced to sit with back spasms, Jennings’ play was pivotal in this win.
THREE-POINT DEFENSE STILL A CONCERN: The Knicks went down by 9 in the second behind the open threes given to Miami. The problem wasn’t cleaned up in the second half as the Heat finished 11/25 from downtown. Against a Miami team hampered by injuries with only 9 available players, the Knicks were able to get away with it. But with elite teams, we’d be looking at the wrong end of a blowout.
Tomorrow night, the Cavaliers will show us how much we’ve progressed since opening night. Being this is the third game in four nights, it won’t come easy.