All is forgiven, JR! Our man JR Smith has been in a bad slump over the last 5-6 shooting-wise. A favorite of Coach Woodson, he’s been given the green light to work through it and keep shooting. His teammates kept their confidence in him last night against the Bobcats — he was continually given the ball for shots despite bricking many open jumpers. But that faith paid heavily in the final minute, as Smith delivered key defensive stops on the Bobcats quick, pesky guards and hit a difficult stepback jumper to defeat Charlotte 100-98.
It was a fun game, but one that raised your blood pressure a few notches.
Bobcats Guards Had NY In Disarray: This is the first game of the season where you can say the age of the team was exploited. Charlotte’s younger guards were blowing past us at will for most of the game. Kemba Walker had 25 points and 11 rebounds (!) on 7-10 shooting. Ben Gordon, who always seems to light up the Knicks no matter who he’s playing for, dropped 17 points off the bench and 3-5 from downtown. Gerald Henderson got off too, contributing 18 points on 7-14 shooting.
Lived by the 3 But Almost Died: The Knicks attempted an astounding 41 three-pointers. You would have thought Mike D’Atoni was still here by the way we kept shooting despite only making 13 for an underwhelming 31%. However, it was the timing of several of those 3s in the fourth that kept us in it.
Older Legs But Smarter Brains: The athleticism of the Bobcats kept the game close, but it was the veteran smarts of NY that closed the show. Over the final 3 minutes, the Knicks forced a shot clock violation and nabbed three steals. These scoreless possessions mounted the pressure on Charlotte and gave the Knicks more confidence, even with an injury preventing Melo from playing the final 2 minutes.
Take It Easy, Melo: A few games back when Melo dove into the MSG stands Charles Oakley style for a loose ball, we loved it. Now, we’d be relieved if Anthony never did that again for the rest of the year. His fourth quarter dive resulted in a laceration on his left middle finger that required 5 stitches. Although he’ll more than likely play tonight against the Heat, Melo needs to be healthy this entire season if NY has any hope to make noise in the playoffs. Pick your spots, Melo.
Chandler Still Beasting: After a mixed bag to start the season (especially on defense) Tyson Chandler has really gotten into a groove over the last six games. Last night he had 9 rebounds in just the first quarter and finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds, 1 block and a steal.
Team Effort: Coach Woodson called this a team effort and I couldn’t agree more. Although Melo carried us through halftime with 20 points, he got ice-cold and missed his first 10 shots on the second half and only had 3 points. Raymond Felton was huge in fourth with his decision-making, finding Chandler and making defensive stops. He contributed 17 points, 9 assists and 0 turnovers. In his first game back, Jason Kidd had 7 points but made his biggest contribution on the defensive end, getting three blocks and 2 steals.
Always Great to Stick It to Jordan: As a player, MJ terrorized the Knicks damn near every season. It’s nice to get a measure of revenge, no matter how small. His face says it all.
Onto our conference rival the Miami Heat tonight. Along with the Knicks, they are the only other team with an undefeated record at home. It’ll be tough, but also so sweet if we can add their first blemish while maintaining our standing as having the best record in the Eastern Conference.