Melo the Closer – Knicks 111, Hawks 106

THJ_Knicks_Hawks

The Knicks overcame the heartbreak of Friday’s defeat in Boston by putting together a wholly efficient offensive performance to take a 111-106 victory over a red-hot shooting Atlanta Hawks team at Madison Square Garden. Outside of one moping player, all was well in NYC last night.

 

GOOD AND BAD DEFENSE: The Knicks did an excellent job of disrupting the Hawks offense with deflections and steals. They forced 12 turnovers in the first half and 27 for the entire game. It was completely necessary to offset the scorching shooting of the Hawks, who shot around 60% for most of the game. The percentage was due to the inside dominance of Paul Millsap (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Al Horford (17 points, 6 rebounds) coupled with the Knicks guards amazingly losing Kyle Korver on the perimeter (13 points, 4-9 from three).

THE SPARKS: We know Melo will get his, but the question with this Knicks team is who backs up our star player. Last night it was Tim Hardaway Jr. (13 points) who was aggressive getting to the rim for several dunks in the first half. Stoudemire (9 points, 5 rebounds) had a quieter game by his recent standards, but his output was great in getting the Knicks breathing room in the second quarter despite the Hawks shooting around 56% in the first half.

MELO THE FOCUS BUT TEAM EFFORT: The second half is where the team has had problems and in the third bad defense reared its ugly head. The Knicks had a 62-48 lead after the first few minutes, but left Korver open for back to back treys to help ignite a 15-6 run. ATL could not miss from the perimeter and were just behind 81-77 going into the fourth.

Up until that point, Melo had shot 9/15 from the field. There were a few rushed shots from him, but outside of that the team made his job much easier. Prigioni was dishing sweet passes to Melo and Bargnani. And speaking of Prigioni, his shooting kept the defense honest, dropping 11 points (3-6 from downtown). This gave NY a nice 15-point cushion late — under those cirmcumstances, Melo’s heat-check three, which went in to make the lead 106-93, was welcomed. Melo ended with another good stat line of 35 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

The reason for the seemingly close score was Atlanta hitting four straight threes in less than two minutes of garbage time.

SULKING JR: Although JR Smith got the starting assignment at small forward, he managed just 1-8 from the field in 24 minutes (benched for all of the 4th). He looked like he was at a funeral on the sidelines with Prigioni trying to console him. This comes on the heels of JR just attempting one shot against Boston.

A lot of fans are ready to ship JR out, but my memory is not short. His bench play last year was key in our team finishing at the second seed. With the knee surgery, I’ll give JR at least until the All-Star break to get it together.

1ST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

[youtube http://youtu.be/zAe9qyJBdRg]

[Video] Bargnani’s Threes Lead Knicks Over Hawks 95-91

Oh, man, it was a great way to kind of get back on track. Any time you can win on the road, that’s always a big win. Much better effort than we put forth in that San Antonio game. I’m glad to see that we responded in that fashion and put that game behind us. – CARMELO ANTHONY

Bargnani_pumped

Despite playing their worst 12 minutes of the season in the third quarter, the Knicks regrouped under the sharp shooting of Andrea Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony to post a sorely needed victory over the Atlanta Hawks last night at Philips Arena. Team owner James Dolan guaranteed a victory and the squad didn’t disappoint in spite of making the contest much harder than it needed to be.

FIRST HALF EXCELLENCE: Even with the specter of  Iman Shumpert being traded, the team came out composed and very efficient. The ball movement was strong and JR Smith in the starting lineup added another much-needed weapon (JR went 3-4 from downtown in the opening 12 minutes). Melo was abusing Paul Millsap inside and Andrea Bargnani (20 pts, 11 rebounds) was actually boxing out and taking down rebounds (making up for his shot getting swatted by Kyle Korver of all people). Speaking of Korver, the Knicks held him scoreless in the first half, much of it behind Shumpert’s close-out defense.

3RD QUARTER FUTILITY: The Knicks came out lifeless for the third quarter and were outscored 10-23, allowing the Hawks to erase a 10-point halftime deficit (55-45) to take a slim 68-63 lead into the fourth. The Knicks offense became stagnant isolations with most of the chucking coming from Melo (9-25, 25 PTS), who was out of sync in the paint and on the perimeter. On defense, the inability of Raymond Felton to keep Jeff Teague in front of him allowed Atlanta to get several fast break points and repeated slams off cuts from Horford.

BARGNANI CLOSES THE SHOW: With the main starters on both teams resting, New York tightened up their defense and took advantage of Hawks point guard rookie Dennis Schroder, who committed four turnovers. Pablo Prigioni played a huge part in this area by being his usual pesky self. The Knicks shooting return to form behind Bargnani, who hit a few three-pointers to put the game out of a reach (the dagger being a bank shot to put the Knicks up by 9 with two minutes remaining). It was a true team effort with everyone doing their part to destroy all the momentum the Hawks had built up in the third.

SHUMPERT ‘S WELL-ROUNDED CONTRIBUTIONS: Shumpert didn’t have much in the way of points (1-4, 5 points), but he had a key three-pointer in the fourth to start the Knicks run, and he kept the offense going with his passing (9 assists). He also added 4 steals and 6 rebounds. I love Kenneth Faried too, but show me a game he can contribute in these varied ways.

The Knicks don’t get to rest on their laurels. They’re back in action tonight against old friend Jeremy Lin and the rest of the Houston Rockets.