Taped Again — Knicks Complete Back to Back Sweep of Raptors 110-84


Begone, lowly Raptors! With Rudy Gay again out of commission with back spasms, the Knicks needed to take care of business emphatically at Madison Square Garden. That’s what they did from the second quarter on through a strong overall team effort. And what made this easy victory even sweeter was our conference rivals all lost (Pacers, Nets, Celtics), allowing the Knicks to slide back into second place.

There wasn’t much to complain about, so let’s get right to the highlights…


KENYON MARTIN REMAINS IN BEAST MODE: K-Mart ran roughshod over Toronto yesterday and did so again tonight. His active presence does so much to keep the offense flowing — he catches lobs, cleans up misses and NEVER lets anyone come into the paint without getting checked hard. He got away with a hard misse foul on Carl Lowry which turned into an Iman Shumpert three-pointer in the second.

In the same quarter, Martin got a huge block on John Lucas outside the paint. The hard-nosed defense got contagious with Shumpert blocking Landry Fields inside a few seconds later. The Knicks got possession, and Melo found K-Mart inside for a three-point play which pushed the lead to 59-47 at halftime.

Most impressive was Martin doing all his damage while sitting out the fourth, scoring 18 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and notching 2 blocks.


MELO DINES ON FIELDS: I normally have love for ex-Knicks, but Landry Fields lost a lot of good will from me when he started doing interviews basically blaming Melo for his post-rookie year regression (Riiight, like Melo was the reason you shot 56% from the free throw line last year). It’s no secret that these two don’t like each other, and Melo even got a flagrant 1 for a retaliatory shove from a Fields elbow.

Thankfully, Melo did the majority of his talking by torching Fields for 28 points on 9/19 shooting coupled with 8 rebounds. And in a big improvement from Friday’s game, Melo hit all his free throws (10 in all) and just had 2 turnovers. Melo feasted in the paint on an array of turnaround jumpers. Alan Anderson couldn’t do much better when he got the defensive assignment.

And like Martin, Melo did all this work in just three quarters and got to chill for the fourth.


THE SUPPORTING CAST: Melo and Martin were the leaders, but this was a strong team effort. JR Smith had 25 points (9/16 from the field) and kept his efficiency high by going strong to the rim. JR also managed to give the Raptors one final huge disrespect by scoring a layup in the final second after both teams had clearly stopped playing.

Shumpert continues to gain confidence defensively off ACL surgery — the second year guard forced the Raptor perimeter players into contested jumpers and logged 4 steals. Copeland got a Woody tongue-lashing for some first half bad defense, but tightened up and still brought it on offense (12 points). Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni didn’t have big scoring outings, but their defense was solid and helped to deflate the Raptors in the second half. And even Novak hit a long jumper off the dribble! *GASP*


THE LINEUP MOVING FORWARD: With K-Mart playing so well the last two games, the rumblings have already begun among fans about him starting. As a natural power forward, he increases our defense and offense, which takes some of the load off Tyson Chandler, and allows Melo to move back to his natural small forward position.

Coach Woodson put all that to rest by stating Martin will be off the bench when Chandler returns. I understand his reasoning. Our frontcourt depth has been ruined by injuries and with Martin also being an older player, he wants to make sure he’s fresh for the playoffs. If Martin were to start, the only true big we’d have off the bench is Marcus Camby (who’s been injury-prone this season).

It’s so frustrating when you think of how formidable this team could be with everyone healthy.

The Knicks get a few days of deserved rest before a big road game on Tuesday  against a hated division rival in the Celtics. I’m sure I speak for all Knicks fans when I say I want that game badly.

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Melo and Martin Lead Knicks Past Raptors, Clinch Playoff Berth


Playoffs, here we come! Tonight, the Knicks not only clenched a playoff berth, but enacted a little bit of revenge on the Toronto Raptors, who previously beat the Knicks twice in embarrassing losses. It was an overall uneven performance (especially defensively and at the free throw line), but a high scoring output from Carmelo Anthony and a phenomenal effort from Kenyon Martin kept NY in front for nearly the entire contest.


KNICKS  START SOLID: After the Raptors took what would be their largest lead of the game at 6-2, the Knicks warmed up to the game behind some potent outside shooting. Iman Shumper and Raymond Felton had treys, but the best sequence of the opening quarter came courtesy of Pablo Prigioni, who got starting duties at point. Prigioni nailed a 17-foot scoop shot, then promptly stole the inbound pass and found Melo camped out for a three-pointer. The Knicks would take a 10 point lead (25-15), but a quick 7-0 Raptors run made the Knicks settle for a 25-22 lead after one.


2ND QUARTER BRILLIANCE: The Knicks clicked on all cylinders here and got a bit of luck with the Raptors’ best player Rudy Gay being forced to sit with back spasms (he wouldn’t return). Marcus Camby was a strong defensive presence inside, drawing offensive fouls and getting a nice block. The Raptors came out shooting 1-12 in the quarter. With six minutes left, the Knicks had outscored them 12-3 behind Steve Novak’s three-point shooting and JR Smith continuing his recent trend of attacking the rim. JR even drew a charge of his own in the paint. And Melo got to feast with the overmatched Landry Fields attempting to guard him in the paint. When the smoke cleared, the Knicks had a comfortable 50-37 halftime lead.


KENYON MARTIN LIFTS KNICKS OVER SECOND HALF STRUGGLES: The third quarter was a classic Knicks disaster. I don’t know if someone on the Knicks did him wrong in a past life, but Raptors bench player Alan Anderson has had it out for NY every game. He light them up again from the perimeter by draining threes and getting superstar treatment from the refs on fouls. Anderson scored a ridiculous 20 points in the quarter and his team would outscore the Knicks 34-27. The man even got a 4-point play on, guess who, JR Smith.

Although the Raptors would go on to outscore the Knicks 57-49 over the second half, Kenyon Martin was our great equalizer. The man was an animal on the boards (11 rebounds) and a huge physical presence inside that had guards like Kyle Lowry second-guessing their drives. Sure, Martin picked up a few dumb fouls, but it was well worth it because his effort was relentless. Martin had multiple putback slams and when the defense sagged off him, he rolled right to the basket for two key layups in the fourth quarter. Melo put up the big scoring numbers, but the game ball goes to K-Martin for his impressive, well-rounded stat line of 19 points (9/10 shooting), 11 rebounds, 2 steals and a block.


MOMENTUM PLAY: The Raptors were very close to taking over this game after a Demar Derozan three-point play brought them within two points (84-82) with less than six minutes remaining. The two teams had been trading baskets and it would be the Raptors who blinked first, courtesy of an open jumper Derozan missed. Melo would promptly get a three-point play inside, followed by two Martin layups and a Felton trey with the shot clock winding down that pushed the lead to 94-84 with under four minutes remaining. The game should have been iced, but the horrid free throw shooting made this one have a little drama in the final minute.


FREE THROWS: The performance tonight at the line was inexcusable. The Knicks had three different chances to close this one out at the line and each time the player either split the shots (Melo, Kidd) or bricked both (JR). For the game, the Knicks shot a putrid 54% (13/24). This needs to be reigned in as much as possible because this recurrent flaw is highly detrimental to this important stretch for better playoff seeding.


MELO: Normally, Melo hoisting 31 shots is a sign our offense is stagnant. That wasn’t the case tonight. Melo had a very slow start to the game, being 3/10 at one stretch and 5/14 in the first half. But in the second half, he really came alive inside via the abuse he put on Landry Fields and even Alan Anderson at times. And it wasn’t just offense — Melo had six rebounds and two blocks (one being a nice perimeter rejection to stifle Terrence Ross). We needed every bit of his 37 points tonight and the team still shot over 50%.


The Knicks will meet the Raptors one last time on Saturday night to close out the season series. If Rudy Gay remains sidelined and the Knicks, particularly Martin, can bring this same effort, I see no reason why the Knickstape don’t emerge with another victory.

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No Execution, No Focus, No Win – Knicks Fall to Raptors 92-88


Guess all that talk about a great practice on Tuesday means that’s where the Knicks left their game — this 92-88 Raptors loss was probably the worst they’ve played all year. That’s saying a lot considering the cluster of bad defeats NY has suffered this year to teams like Houston and Chicago. There was no ball movement, defense and worst of all no consistent energy nor effort. And no, we simply can’t look at this as an aberration from a team looking ahead to the All-Star Break. This was just another example of the inconsistent play (and coaching) plaguing this team.


WHO WAS THE TEAM COMING OFF A BACK TO BACK?: Coming into last night, the Raptors were less than 24 hours removed from a grueling one-point road win against the Nuggets. Their fatigue showed early with them settling for long, contested jumpers. The Raptors shot an atrocious 4/19 in the quarter and scored just 14 points.

That would have been good for the Knicks, but their ineptitude was nearly as bad. The Knicks, coming off two full days of rest, could only manage 7/21 from the field for 18 points. Raymond Felton was aggressive at least, but outside of that it was bricked jumper after bricked jumper.


NOVAK THE EXPLOITER…AND THE EXPLOITED: Steve Novak came into the game early in the second and Toronto promptly reeled off six straight points on him. Guys like Rudy Gay and Alan Anderson drove right by Novak in embarrassing fashion. But to his credit, Novak contributed on the offensive end to the tune of three treys to help the Knicks get out to a 35-27 lead.

Suprisingly, the one game where Novak appears to be hot from downtown, Coach Woodson sits him for most of the second half when we were in desperate need for offense.


3RD QUARTER WOES: Even with the lazy all-around effort, the Knicks held a 42-37 lead at halftime. That was promptly erased in a third quarter where the Raptors outscored the Knicks 28-18. Melo couldn’t hit anything (including three straight missed free throws) and neither could any other Knick. Even the ejection of Kyle Lowry couldn’t help as John Lucas III and Alan Anderson continued destroying our Knicks backcourt.


MELO HURT AND NO ONE STEPS UP: As everyone has probably heard, Melo suffered a deep contusion to his right arm in the first quarter after a collision with DeMar DeRozan. His arm went numb and it affected his shooting the rest of the night. That didn’t stop Melo from shooting (to the tune of a horrid 5/24), but it’s not like he had much help elsewhere. Although JR Smith had 26 points, a lot of those points came with the game already decided. When the momentum hung in the balance, he missed key free throws and defensive close outs on the Raptors.


LOWER-LEVEL PLAYERS FEAST IN MSG ONCE AGAIN: This was the most distressing thing about the game. It’s becoming tradition for bench and role players to have career games at the Garden because of our bad perimeter defense. Alan Anderson was 6/8 from downtown (many of them wide open) and finished with 26 points. John Lucas promptly came in for the ejected Lowry and hit a three to set the tone. Late in the fourth, he iced the game with a fadeaway jumper.


TIME FOR ANOTHER LINEUP CHANGE: Jason Kidd is still a valuable piece to this team, but it isn’t as a starter. At 40 he does not have the foot speed to keep up with opposing guards and it’s one of the main reasons we have a lot of bad defensive switches and end up with mismatches. To make matters worse, he’s in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career — last night he had 0 points on 0/3 shooting.

What this team needs is a balance of offense and defense. The first experiment I’d go with is putting Iman Shumpert at shooting guard, moving Melo back to his natural position of small forward and Stoudemire back to starting at the 4. And giving Ronnie Brewer another shot at the rotation (Lord knows his defense is needed).


The good news is that even with losing 3 of their last 4 games, the Knicks still hold the #2 spot in the East. But I hope everyone on the team takes this break to do some soul-searching, get healthy, and gear up for a second half of the season that will require them at their best.

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