Back on Track: Knicks End 2-Game Skid With 121-100 Pistons Blowout

After getting ran off the floor in Houston and letting the refs and three-point shooting sink them in Dallas over their last two games, the Knicks needed to get refocused. New York did just that against the lowly Detroit Pistons yesterday, fueled by Carmelo Anthony’s 29 points and good contributions from Raymond Felton, JR Smith, Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak to notch another blowout and maintain a perfect 5-0 record at Madison Square Garden.

Melo had one of his trademark red-hot starts to kick off the first and never really cooled down for the rest of the contest. He started 6-6 and had 15 points in the quarter, while Tyson Chandler was aggressive on pick and rolls and getting to the line. Pablo Prigioni had a nice steal in the waning seconds of the quarter to push the lead to 32-22 on 61% shooting from the field and one turnover.

New York was very cold to start the second and the Pistons found new life behind guard penetration from Will Bynum. The lead was cut to 32-29, but Knicks were able to hold on with Marcus Camby keeping the Pistons off the offensive glass. Melo came back in and hit a tough turnaround jumper and dished a nice behind the back pass to JR Smith for a corner three. JR Smith had a great rebounding game (10), including an offensive one that lead to a Steve Novak three that pushed the lead to 50-38. Felton had back to back buckets off a jumper and back door cut pass from Jason Kidd, who then drained his own three-pointer to push the lead to 57-42 at halftime.

The Knicks had a mental relapse to start the third with three straight turnovers, two on fumbled passes from Tyson Chandler. This allowed the Pistons to reel off eight straight points. Melo got a tough call for “fouling” a three-point attempt from Kyle Singler, but showed the restraint that had been lacking the last two games. Coach Woodson even made it a point to pull Raymond Felton away from a referee. A Melo three-pointer pushed the lead back to 75-60, but the Pistons guard penetration kept them within striking distance. However, two threes from Steve Novak in the final minutes gave NY a nice 86-72 cushion going into the last quarter.

Novak stayed hot from downtown and immediately pushed the lead to 93-78 to start the fourth. Outside of a miracle three-pointer from Brandon Knight (21 points) with the shot clock winding down and Chandler in his face, the quarter was all Knicks. Novak hit another three and for the first time this season put on the belt as the lead ballooned to 98-81. It wasn’t a serious contest after the first few minutes of the fourth, but that didn’t stop Rasheed Wallace and James White from hitting a few more threes to put the exclamation point on the game.

This was all-around great game for the Knicks to end this woeful two-game losing streak. The contributions outside of Melo were fantastic from Felton (14 pts, 10 assts), JR Smith (15 pts, 10 rebs, assts), Wallace (15 pts), Chandler (13 pts, 7 rebs) and Novak (18 pts). Novak has been off for most of this year so to see him go 5-7 from three bodes well for our premier shooter.

Tonight is the biggest game of the season thus far when we met our crosstown “rivals” the Brooklyn Nets. Don’t miss it on TNT.

Questionable Calls and Bad Perimeter D: Mavs 3pt Shooting Lifts Them Over Knicks 114-111

Hopefully the Knicks had a nice Thanksgiving to erase the sour taste of a bitter 114-111 defeat to the Mavericks in Dallas on Wednesday night.

Even without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs are still dangerous due to OJ Mayo, who’s been one of the deadliest shooters in the NBA thus far, leading the league in three-point shooting. What was not foreseen is giving up 25 points off the bench to the ghost of Vince Carter and getting slack on our defense to the tune of giving  up 30 in the 4th quarter and allowing the Mavs to hit 4-6 from downtown (they shot 13-29 from three for the game).

Like the game against the Hornets, we jumped out to a 10 point lead by the second quarter only to let the Mavs go crazy behind the arc (Carter, Troy Murphy, Shawn Marion and OJ Mayo). Still, NY closed the quarter strong behind some good steals from Jason Kidd and aggressive inside play from Tyson Chandler to have a 54-49 lead at halftime.

The second half of the game was tough to watch. After an even battle for much of the third, JR Smith started to become a liability on defense; OJ Mayo was burning him for layups and 3s. Vince Carter had a good time at JR’s expense too, knocking down a few 3s. Even Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder got in on the 3-point barrage, and before you knew it the quarter had ended with the Mavs outscoring the Knicks 35-26.

The Knicks fell behind by as much as 12 points in the fourth. Carmelo Anthony had a very tough night and not just from the hard defense Marion put on him. Melo got hit with several tough offensive calls. And even though he had a season-high 7 turnovers, a few of them could have been called loose ball fouls (Melo was hit hard in the face on one). Even so, Melo managed to chip in 23 points, and Tyson Chandler had 21, fueled by a key 3-point play that helped the Knicks  get within four (101-105) late in the fourth. We never folded, but we gave up too many 3s, committed too many shooting fouls and let the corpse of Vince Carter drop way too points off the bench to pull this one out.

Knicks fans can take a little solace in the fact that despite our bad play perimeter defense, we were within just a point (111-112) with the ball in Melo’s hands for the potential game-winning jumper that missed.

We can take out any remaining frustration tonight on our old friend Jeremy Lin in Houston. You know damn well Raymond Felton will be up for that game.

NY Pest Control: Knicks Eradicate Hornets 102-80

The Knicks faced a struggling Hornets team without Anthony Davis and did exactly what an elite team should do in ripping the game open in the second half for a 102-80 blowout win.

New Orleans had zero answers for Carmelo Anthony, who went 5-5 early on and abused whomever guarded him on the post. The outside shot wasn’t bad either, as Melo hits 3 three-pointers in the opening 12  Hornets bigs like Robin Lopez got in foul trouble early. After one, the Knicks had a nice 29-17 cushion.

The lead ballooned to 16 to start the second and then the Knicks got real lazy on perimeter defensive rotations. This allowed Brian Roberts and Ryan Anderson to get hot from three-point range and ignite a 19-3 run to take a two point lead midway. The Knicks buckled down behind the returning Melo and Raymond Felton: the former worked in the post while the later contributed several 3s. Af halftime, the Knicks nursed a 53-48 lead.

Realizing this game should not be close, the Knicks stormed out in the third and outscored the Hornets 30-16. A cluster of 3s from Melo, Brewer, Felton and even later James White effectively iced the game when the lead grew to 81-62 with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the quarter. The rest of the game was garbage time as the Hornets essentially admitted defeat.

With Dallas coming up, we did exactly what needed to be done to rest our starters. Melo dropped 29 points and 15 apiece came from Felton and JR Smith. Tyson Chandler was also very strong, giving NY 7 points and 12 rebounds.

Aside from the collective brain fart in the second quarter, the only worrisome part of this game was Steve Novak, who had a woeful shooting night. He had 8 points on 3-12 shooting and a horrid 2-10 from three-point land. For the year, he’s shooting 34% from downtown after having a league-leading 45% last year. It’s still early, but let’s hope Novak finds his shot sooner rather than later.

Tonight the Knicks face a Dallas team coming off a disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors and still without their star player Dirk Nowitzki. Although we handled them earlier this month, OJ Mayo is still shooting the lights out and they’ll be out for some get back. Knicks better bring their “A” game tonight.

Unblemished No More: Grizzlies Frontline Wears Down Knicks 105-95

This was touted as a matchup between the teams with the two best records in the league. For the first two quarters, both teams executed plays and shot well. New York was shooting over 60% and making key steals, but still couldn’t get more than a 2-3 point lead due to giving up too much second-chance points on the offensive board. Melo was having to work extremely hard on defense, contending with Zach Randolph and Marc, Gasol who both outweighed him by 30-40 pounds. But as he’s shown over the winning streak, Melo made the right passes to guys like Kidd and Brewer for open shots. Unfortunately, Melo had to sit after getting two fouls, as did the Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay, leaving it a tight game of 29-25 in favor of Memphis after one.

Rasheed Wallace went to work in the post in the second, hopefully a sign of future things to come. That forced double teams and allowed for guys like JR Smith to get going with outside jumpers. Unfortunately for NY, Memphis’ outside shooters were hot, in particular their point guard Bayless. Matters would get chippy with him when a JR elbow and Bayless shove resulted in double technicals. The hard play continued and Melo began to complain too much about the lack of calls for him inside. The Grizzlies scrambled hard for every loose ball and even a Knicks block from Rasheed Wallace went in the Grizz’s favor, as the loose ball went to Mike Conley who hit a three to give them a 54-49 halftime lead.

Then disaster struck in the third. Melo caught a suspect third foul early and less than two minutes later got another while being tangled up with Marc Gasol. Melo got irate and earned a technical before hitting the bench. Tyson Chandler got his fourth foul and the team just became unglued. Think the playoffs last year in game 1 where the Heat got a bunch of fouls and ran the Knicks out of the building. This was very similar as the Grizzlies went on a ridiculous 19-1 run and ended up outscoring the Knicks 31-18 for the quarter. Chandler got his fifth foul, coach Woodson his own technical and next thing you know the score was 74-56 Grizzlies.

Chandler’s foul trouble forced Woodson to do something he should have done from the outset; put Kurt Thomas on Randolph. Immediately, Randolph had a much tougher time scoring and had to work harder in the paint for rebounds. Unfortunatly, the damage had been done. Although the Knicks rallied to pull as close as 8 points in the fourth, a few quick  Grizzlies scores off pick and rolls effectively iced the game to give the Knicks their first defeat.

You’d think we would have had a good shot of winning having shot 51%, but having our best players in foul trouble and Woodson being stubborn with the lineup sealed our fate. Thankfully, Woodson is already on record stating some of his substitutions hurt us down the stretch. This game is a clear example that while Melo has had success at the 4 spot, that can become a weakness against a team like the Grizzlies and we have to adjust accordingly.

Melo’s been great this year, but the one glaring flaw he needs to get in check continues to be the ref complaining. He’s going to start to get, if he hasn’t already, a reputation with the refs and the techs will start coming quicker. Our team follows his lead; when he became irate and unfocused in the third, the rest of the team followed suit. I’m sure his patience wasn’t helped matters by getting banged around by Randolph and Gasol, but he needs to check this behavior ASAP.

It’s back home on Sunday to face the Pacers. All in all, it was a good road trip going 2-1. Let’s hope we don’t see Melo trying to guard Roy Hibbert tomorrow.

Comeback Kidd! Jason and Felton Carry Knicks to Road Win Over Spurs 104-100

“It shows me this team is for real. We beat a great team tonight.” – Knicks head coach Mike Woodson

If there were any remaining non-believers, the Knicks effectively dispelled those naysayers last night in San Antonio, executing stifling defense and exceptional guard play from Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton to lift the Knicks to a 104-100 win over the Spurs.

The matchup had the intensity of a playoff game from the start; both teams came out taking quality shots and passing well. Felton scored the Knicks first 5 points and you could tell early on he had a point to prove taking on Spurs all-star Tony Parker. For the first time this season, Carmelo Anthony couldn’t get off to a fast scoring start due to quick double teams and physical play from DeJuan Blair. However, Melo showed excellent passing out of those double teams to give the Knicks a tight 33-31 lead after one.

The Knicks got some breathing room early in the second courtesy of JR Smith hitting a jumper and scoring with a drive into the lane. Pablo Prigioni hit a pull-up jumper, and Steve Novak and Rasheed Wallace hit three-pointers to push the lead to 45-38. Melo continued his great passing; he found JR for another drive into the lane that this time resulted in a three-point play.

Tony Parker picked up his game late in quarter, getting several fouls as Felton had issues keeping in front of him. The free throws got the game close and San Antonio finished strong with a contested three-pointer at the buzzer from Danny Green to give the Spurs a 54-52 halftime lead.

The calls started favoring the Knicks in the third, resulting in the Spurs already being in the penalty by the seven minute mark. Unfortunately, the Knicks were having problems at the line and finishing at the rim (Chandler, Brewer, Melo). The Spurs sensed blood and tightened their D for several fast breaks, one of which ended in a Jackson three-pointer. The Knicks finished the quarter cold with one too many JR isolation plays and a 74-76 deficit into the fourth.

A Novak airball for the eighth straight three-point miss was a dubious start, and inexcusably bad defense from Tyson Chandler lead to Tiago Splitter reeling off 13 straight points inside to start the quarter. The guard penetration from Manu Ginobili and Parker supplied Splitter with these opportunities and it looked very bad for the Knicks, who went down by 12 points (77-89) with seven minutes to go.

That’s when Felton and Kidd took over. Felton drove for a layup on Parker to bring the Knicks within 10. The New York defense held, one of which was a steal from Kidd, which lead to the veteran hitting back to back threes to put the Knicks right back in it down four (85-89). Ginobili stopped the run with his own three-pointer, but the Knicks came right back with a sweet Melo pass resulting in a Chandler three-point play off a dunk. Felton and JR would both score in the lane to bring the Knicks closer.

The best sequence came off another Kidd steal to ignite a fast break. Kidd passed to Melo on the wing, who drove to elicit a double team and kick to Felton under the rim, who passed back out to an open JR Smith for a three-pointer and a two point lead (97-95). Another stop would lead to a Kidd dagger three-pointer, and Tyson would put the exclamation mark on the game with a put back dunk off a Felton miss to ice the game with a 102-95 lead with a little over 30 seconds remaining. The Knicks closed out with a 22-11 run. 

For us Knicks fans, this was a beautiful game to behold. Last year before Woodson, we would have given up once the Spurs pushed it to 12. Instead, we fought back and snatched their hearts out. Jason Kidd’s value to this team cannot be stressed enough; without him we’d have about three losses already. And Raymond Felton… let’s hope that man keeps that chip on his shoulder for the rest of the year. Great effort by everyone. I loved how Melo had faith in his teammates when his shot was not falling. He focused on passing , defense and made sure to not be a liability out there. We can only hope to see the same from Amar’e when he comes back.

We head right back into the fire tonight on ESPN against the Grizzlies, who’s frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will be a huge mountain for our tired legs. I can’t wait…