Porzingis and Hardaway Jr. Both Drop 30+, Stomp Cavs 114-95

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Eastern Conference Finals here we come! Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself, but every fan of the blue and orange has to be encouraged by the total team effort last night that lead to a shocking 114-95 win on the road over the Cavs. We saw everything you want to see from a young squad trying to find an identity: poise, scrappy defense, ball movement and hustle.

Will it be this good every game? No, but consistent effort like this will put them in position to be competitive every night.

KP and THJ PUT IN WORK: Porzingis and Hardaway went off to historic proportions. Porzingis had another 30-point game (first in franchise history to start the season with four 30+ point games out of five) and neutralize Tristan Thompson by getting him in foul trouble. Although most of KP’s damage was done in the first half, he had a few timely defensive stops in the fourth (including a block on D-Rose), and a three-pointer to push the Knick lead to 13 with less than three minutes remaining.

Hardaway came into this game shooting an abysmal 28%. Early on, the struggle continued until Tim just exploded from the perimeter. He was red hot behind the line (3/6, 50%). And once the close-outs came, Tim went aggressively into the lane to hit layups or fouls. When the smoke cleared, Hardaway finished with 34 points (11/19) and a +22 when on the floor.

We can thank these two for the reason the Knicks had a 29-19 lead after one quarter, and lead by as much a 19 late in the third.

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LOCKDOWN: Unlike the first home game against Detroit, the Knicks didn’t fall apart when the Cavs made a second-half run. They slashed a 19-point lead to six before the Knicks exploded on a 27-7 run to break Cleveland’s spirit. Here the supporting cast shined. Frank Ntilikina struggled with his shot (2/5), but used his length for deflections, steals (2) and pushing the ball to keep teammates involved.

Courtnet Lee had his own milestone with his first double double (15 points, 10 rebounds) of his career. In fact, four of the five starters hit double figures. And the one who didn’t, Jarrett Jack, was the catalyst for the ball movement with nine assists.

The Knicks won’t get to rest on their laurels. They face the scrappy Nuggets at home tomorrow night to complete the back to back. Letdown or another momentum-builder?

[Video] Reality Check – Cavs Hammer Knicks 126-94

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Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

The narrative for tonight’s showdown against the Cavaliers was the Knicks finding out where they stood against the NBA’s elite. The result was a brutal reality check as Cleveland toyed with New York before pulling away in the third quarter in a 126-94 rout at Madison Square Garden.

WEAKNESSES EXPLOITED: I’ve been saying it all season and will continue to do so. Until this team learns competent three-point defense, they’ll be exposed against elite competition. Today’s NBA is predicated on the three-point shot. Once again, Porzingis made poor decisions on double teams and close-outs with his stretch four, allowing Kevin Love to drop 16 points in the first quarter with four three-pointers. At halftime, the Cavs held a 63-48 lead largely on the 50% (8/19) shooting from downtown. For the game, they were a ridiculous 22/40.

On offense, the Knicks were passive allowing the Cavs defense to bully them and force 16 turnovers (which the Cavs converted into 17 points).

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SCARED TO COMPETE: This is the second time we’ve played like trash against the defending champs. Yes, some will use the built-in excuses of Derrick Rose being out with back spasms and this being the second night of a back to back. Hogwash. The mentality of this team is markedly different when we face Cleveland.

We play scared and let them dictate the pace. On a night where Melo was clearly fatigued and didn’t have it (8 points, 4/9 in 24 minutes), no one could carry the load. Porzingis had a quiet 12 points and continued his shooting slump (5/15). Jennings had 16 points in his first start, but could only manage 3 assists, giving you a clear indicator of how badly Cleveland shut down New York’s offense.

BIG THREE RUNS RAMPANT: Cleveland’s All-Star trio combined for 59% of the team’s scoring load with 74 points. LeBron James chipped in 25 points. Love had 21 and Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 28. Tristan Thompson dominated the glass with 20 rebounds.

The only good thing about this game is that it’s over. The Knicks will lick their wounds and begin a 5-game West Coast road trip on Friday. The next opponent should be a welcome sight in the Sacramento Kings.

 

 

 

[Video] Another One: Porzingis Slams a Putback Over Kevin Love

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Five games into the season, our rookie Kristaps Porzingis might have already found a signature move. LaMarcus Aldridge was the victim last week. This week, Porzingis caught Kevin Love in the paint with a sweet putback slam.

JR Smith and Iman Shumpert Traded to Cavs

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In biggest move of Phil Jackson’s tenure as president, the Knicks have agreed to dump over $20 million in salary by trading guards JR Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Per the Associated Press, New York will get a second pick in 2019 from the Cavs. The Knicks will acquire filler players that they plan on immediately waiving. So far, the only confirmed one is rookie center Alex Kirk. The Oklahoma City Thunder will acquire Dion Waiters from Cleveland.

Shumpert is currently sidelined with a dislocated shoulder and averaging 9 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Smith, who was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2013, is averaging 11 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists on the season.

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So long, homies. I have a lot of love for JR and Shump. At their best, I loved the brash, young swagger they brought to the veteran lineups we’ve had in recent years. But if I’m honest, it is very apparent that both players have reached their ceilings in New York. We’ve been waiting for about 2 years for Shumpert to make that “leap” as a second option which just isn’t his game (nor fair to expect from him). Since JR’s excellent 2013 season, we’ve only seen erratic flashes of the focus that made him the Sixth Man of the Year.

A change of scenery will be beneficial for both guys. Shumpert will get to focus on being the lock-down, wing defensive specialist that was his calling card. And JR can be a secret weapon/gunner off the bench. The Cavaliers at the very least get more entertaining with JR on their roster.

I’ll remember the good times. Once a Knick, always a Knick.

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[Video] This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – Knicks 100, Cavs 106

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We had the perfect stage set. The Atlanta Hawks had choked and lost a game to the Raptors the preceding Sunday afternoon. The Cavaliers were coming into the Garden without their best player, Kyrie Irving. And what do the Knicks do? Play an excellent first half of basketball and then revert to the wretched defense and putrid iso offense that has sunk them most of this season.

Under normal circumstances, a trap/letdown game like this happening after winning 8 straight wouldn’t be that bad. But with the Knicks fighting for the 8th seed with under 15 games left, the margin for error is so small that losses like this are completely inexcusable. It’s even more disheartening that this horrible effort happens after the Knicks were scared late against the Sixers just a few days ago.

2ND HALF MELTDOWN: After going up by as much as 17 in the first half, the Knicks settled on a 61-46 halftime lead. They shot 59% over the first 24 minutes, incluiding 8/11 from downtown.

Just two minutes into the third, the Knicks gave up a 9-0 run that turned the contest back into a game. Felton and Melo hit a few timely threes to hold onto the lead, but the Knicks were still outscored 31-23 and clung to a seven-point lead headed into the fourth.

And what happened in the fourth? How about the Knicks were outscored 29-16. So who was doing all the damage, you ask?

JARRETT JACK RUNS AMUCK: There is absolutely no excuse for a player like Jarrett Jack, who’s averaging 9 points for the season, should go for 31 points and 10 assists. Jack kept doing the same pick and roll move to kill Raymond Felton and force mismatches. Iman Shumpert’s defense was sorely missed here as Felton had Jack looking like the league MVP.

Jack’s backcourt mate in Dion Waiters didn’t do too shabby either in dropping 22 points, making them a combined 53 points on the night.

A BAD MOVIE: Melo (32 points, 8/20 FG) had been a great closer during the winning streak. But last night, he went 0/5 in  4th quarter field goals and had a very costly offensive foul on the last-minute that sealed New York’s fate. And Melo wasn’t the only one who was ice-cold — JR, Hardaway Jr. and Felton all missed wide open shots

MARGIN FOR ERROR DRAWS SMALLER: It can’t be emphasized enough how much of a blown opportunity this game was. The Knicks can only hope they ignite another long winning streak and the Hawks to keep losing. Should New York lose 2-3 more games, this playoff race is likely over.

[Video] Knicks Destroy Cavs 117-86

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What a difference a month makes. Around this time in December, the Knicks were getting embarrassed in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving running amuch for 37 points and 11 assists. That was against a Knicks team with no identity. Last night, New York never let the Cavs in it after blitzing them with a 38-21 first quarter, and holding off all comeback attempts over the remaining 36 minutes to take a well-deserved 117-8 6 win at Madison Square Garden. Like all Knicks blowouts this year, it was a total team effort on this one.

JR’S BACK?: After being on the verge of getting shipped out just a few weeks back, JR Smith is finally returning to the excellent form we saw at the end of last season. Starting in place of the injured Iman Shumpert, JR sliced up the Cavs defense with strong drives to the rim and long-range jumpers. It was a case of erratic shots falling — JR played within the offense and shot 8/16 for 19 points, including this collection of breath-taking plays below.

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THJ!!!: Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to shine in his expanded role and thank God Coach Mike Woodson is riding the hot streak. Tim dropped a career high of 29 points, going 11/17 from the field and 6/12 from downtown. Once this kid learns defense, watch out.

EFFICIENT TO THE LAST MAN: Melo (29 points, 5 rebounds), Chandler (11 points, 8 rebounds), and Felton (12 points, 9 rebounds) had good games, along with Jeremy Tyler (8 points, 6 rebounds). The team was shooting over 60% for most of the game while holding the Cavs under 40%. New York would wrap up the contest on 57% shooting from the field and a hot 46% (12/26) from downtown.

The Knicks get to put their win streak to the test against the defending champion Miami Heat on Saturday.

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Knicks Sweep Cavs Season Series, Move Within One Game of #2 Seed Lock

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After last night’s physical overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls, the short-handed Knicks had every reason to play lazy tonight against the Cavs. Instead, the Knicks rode a combined 62 points between Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith to easily defeat the Cavaliers 101-91. The win is significant in that the Pacers dropped one tonight against the Nets, meaning New York will need just one more game to lock up the #2 seed in the East and enjoy home court through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

 

SOLOMON JONES: This game was notable for being the debut of newly signed 6’10 center Solomon Jones, a former Atlanta Hawks player under Mike Woodson several years back. With the team having literally no healthy bigs, Jones at best was hoped to be a presence on defense and at worst six extra fouls. Tonight, he was understandably lost on the plays and his new teammates weren’t too trusting. In his 12 minutes, Jones got dunked on by Tristan Thompson, committed two turnovers and got a rebound. Sure, it’s nothing memorable, but all we need Jones to do is buy our squad time to heal and not overwork our depleted roster. After that, he can find a cozy spot on the bench next to James White.

 

THIS IS THE CAVS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: Cleveland had lost 8 of their last10 coming into this and pretty much played like a team in disarray. Kyrie Irving finished with 31 points and helped his team get withing about nine on a few separate occasions, but the game was decided early on in the fourth behind the man below…

 

JR SMITH REBOUNDS: JR took his frustration from the Bulls game and channeled it properly tonight. He was red-hot from the field (13-16, 31 points), and did his damage on jumpers and drives inside. He manned the offense so well in the fourth that Woody was able to keep Melo rested. Speaking of our leading scorer, Melo continued to put more room between himself and Kevin Durant for this year’s scoring title with another 30-plus effort (31 points, 14 rebounds).

 

COPE BOUNCES BACK: Our “big man” in Chris Copeland chipped in 12 points tonight and fared much better now that he wasn’t being swarmed by Chicago’s defense. Copeland remained an offensive threat throughout the game and did his best work inside.

 

QUICKEN LOANS ARENA NO LONGER A SCARY PLACE: The Knicks have now won back to back games in Cleveland after previously losing their last 10 there going back to the LeBron James era.

 

WIN AND REST: The Knicks haven’t had the luxury of resting Melo and JR due to all the injuries, so it’s highly important they lock up the #2 seed on Sunday against the Pacers. From there, Melo and JR can at least get shut down or have their minutes highly reduced over the next two games against Charlotte and Atlanta.

Rest Easy, Melo — Knicks Come from 22 Down to Stun Cavs

They do a lot of switching… a lot of stuff where you can get caught in laziness and hanging back. So we’re just moving and cutting and guys are cutting hard. And we got Luke Walton out there so it makes it easy. – Cavs guard C.J. Miles on the Knicks’s first half defense

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As you can see from the above quote, the Cavs were feeling themselves in the first half against the Knicks. They had reason to be cocky on 68% shooting and at one point in the second holding a 22 point lead (52-30). The Knicks couldn’t make basic defensive rotations and Luke Walton was dishing dimes like a prime John Stockton. And to add to the misery, Carmelo Anthony had a Benny Hill moment in tripping over his own feet and badly hurting his right knee to knock him out the rest of the game.

But halfway through the second, the Knicks began showing signs of life and very gradually it seemed to dawn on them they were playing the Cavaliers. Without Melo, Coach Woodson was forced to do what should become a regular end-game lineup in playing both Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.

 

MEET THE LATEST BENCH PLAYER TO TORCH NY: Center Marreese Speights got the start today and promptly began going to town with jumper after jumper. He hit his first 10 shots and had 15 points after the first. Whether it was Chandler or Stat, he was the Cavs’s dominate scorer in the first half. However, reality (and the Knicks defense) made him a non-factor in the second half where he only had 2 points.

 

MELO’S INJURY TRIGGERS RUN: The Knicks looked completely demoralized down 22 and the Melo injury appeared to signal this would be a blowout evening. The Knicks instead rallied with a 17-4 run to close the quarter and take a 49-61 deficit into halftime. In the third, the Knicks stormed out with a 10-0 run to pull within 59-61 behind tough interior defense that triggered jump balls, and solid shooting from Jason Kidd and JR Smith. Still, the Knicks couldn’t quite get over the hump despite holding the Cavs to just 1 point six minutes into the quarter and outscoring them 21-13 overall. Going into the fourth, they were still down 70-74.

 

LIVE BY THE THREE: The Knicks drilled seven treys in the fourth and everyone got in on the party. Novak rebounded from the horrid Sunday game against the Heat and had three treys in the quarter. Kidd nailed two crucial ones, and Raymond Felton added one of his own late. Kidd’s last trey in the final minutes put the Knicks up 97-91, which proved to be just enough breathing room down the stretch.

 

THE STAT N TYSON SHOW: For the first time in what seemed like ages, Woodson played our two elite bigs in the fourth to devastating effect. Guards Pablo Prigioni and Felton had Stat feasting on pick n rolls for easy dunks and Chandler was all over the boards. The game-changing plays in the last minute came down to this duo. With a slim 97-95 lead, Stat attacked the rim, got blocked and went back up strong to push the lead to 99-95. Later, a missed Stat jumper was tipped out by Chandler to Jason Kidd, leading to a free throw to push the lead to 100-97. And finally, Irving’s three-point attempt to tie was promptly blocked by Chandler to ice the game.

 

LOSING STREAK ENDS: For some inexplicable reason, the Cavs have been a huge problem for the Knicks even after the LeBron era. Before tonight, the last time the Knicks had won in Cleveland went back to November 2006. To put that in perspective, current Cavs all-star Kyrie Irving for 14 years old at the time.

At this time, we don’t know how much time Melo will miss. Even though the Knicks are claiming it isn’t serious, I don’t have much faith in an early prognosis from the Knicks medical staff considering what we’ve seen happen this year with Rasheed Wallace, Stoudemire and Camby.

Next up is the Pistons, so the Knicks should be able to handle that squad again without Melo.

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NY Spoils Kyrie Irving’s Career Night With 103-102 Win

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Those damn Cavaliers. No matter who’s on the team going back to the LeBron years, they always seem to get up to play us. If my memory serves me correct, they even won the season series last year. Last night was no different with Kyrie Irving going for a career-high 41 points with 17 of those coming in the 4th quarter (several off crazy three-pointers). Considering NY was without Carmelo Anthony (slight left ankle sprain) or Rasheed Wallace (sore foot), we can’t complain too much as a win is a win. However, the Knicks made this much harder than it needed to be as they were up 10 with around five minutes remaining.

Tyson Chandler was huge again with key tips to the backcourt for offensive rebounds and containing Anderson Varejao, who had just 9 points and 8 rebounds compared to Tyson’s 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jason Kidd had a horrid shooting night (3-13 from downtown), but had some key assists in the fourth to offset the cold night. And Raymond Felton picked up the scoring slack with 25 points.

Melo’s still questionable for Monday’s game against the Rockets, but hopefully he suits up so we can get revenge for the blowout they delivered last month. Plus, we gotta welcome Jeremy Lin back to the Garden the right way.

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