Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
What a difference defense makes. Kristaps Porzingis returned from a sprained ankle and delivered 20 points and 9 rebounds to lead a defense-minded Knicks over the Magic 101-90. It was one of the rare times the Knicks played consistent defense and entire night and didn’t falter on defense in the fourth. How did they do it? It started with a simple lineup change.
SLIDING TO NATURAL POSITIONS: With Willy Hernangomez sitting out, Porzingis started at center, which moved Carmelo Anthony to power forward and Lance Thomas into the starting lineup at small forward. This improved the defense tremendously as Melo could no longer be exploited by athletic SFs. It remains to be seen if this can continue against teams with prolific stretch fours.
ANTHONY SETS THE TONE: Melo poured in 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter. He didn’t shoot well (4/16), but his presence was enough to open up the floor. His passing was much better than the two assists he tallied, making him a +18 for the game.
ROSE AND KP: Derrick Rose was arguably our best all-around player tonight. He poured in 19 points on 8/14 shooting, but also grabbed 7 rebounds to go with 4 assists.
The concern with KP playing center are potential injuries due to his thin frame. Tonight, he banged with Nikola Vuceviv and held his own. The three point shot wasn’t there (2/7), but he did damage on PNR and looked fluid working off the dribble.
LANCE THOMAS: I’ve been giving this guy grief for most of the year. But he finally seems healthy and ready to recapture last season’s form. His defense was a contributing factor to the Magic never getting into a groove and only managing 39 points in the second half. Lance was also competent on offense, being one of five Knicks to hit double figures with 11 points.
The Knicks road trip continues against the 76ers on Friday.