Trap Game Averted: Melo’s 35 Leads Knicks Over Heat 114-103


Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images

With the world champion Cavaliers on deck for Madison Square Garden tomorrow, the Knicks’ challenge was being unfocused for tonight’s game against an injury-hampered Heat.

They were for about 24 minutes. Then talent and focus took over.

Carmelo Anthony poured in a season-high 35 points, and five other Knicks hit double figures to extend the Knicks’ winning streak to four ahead of tomorrow’s big Eastern Conference showdown. The “old Knicks” would have blown this game, but this team is playing with confidence.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: Aside from Melo’s 35 points, the other starters came through. Melo started 2/8, but Derrick Rose carried the first quarter scoring load with 8 points. Porzingis had another subpar shooting night (6/15), but once again his defense and 12 rebounds picked up the slack.

Foul trouble aside, Joakim Noah had his best game in a long time (10 points, 10 rebounds). He battled on even terms with Hassan Whiteside and got three tip-ins. If not for picking up his fourth foul by 8:29 in the third, we might have put this game away early.


O’QUINN, THOMAS AND JENNINGS LEAD THE BENCH: Kyle O’Quinn had no fear against Whiteside. He had 2 blocks at the rim on the Miami star and a couple dunks. There was some jawing back and forth, which I loved. O’Quinn had 12 points which 5 of his 7 rebounds coming on the offensive end. O’Quinn nor anyone else could stop Whiteside (23 points, 14 rebounds), but it was in vain with him being a -24 in 38 minutes.

Lance Thomas was superb in his 21 minutes with 11 points. He hit 2 threes, then did damage from mid-range off catch n’ shoots and fakes. His defense isn’t on last year’s level yet, but his offense coming around is a welcome surprise.

Despite getting yelled at by Coach Hornacek for not shooting when open, Jennings still manned the offense well with 9 assists in 24 minutes, including a buzzer beating layup to end the third. With Rose forced to sit with back spasms, Jennings’ play was pivotal in this win.

THREE-POINT DEFENSE STILL A CONCERN:  The Knicks went down by 9 in the second behind the open threes given to Miami. The problem wasn’t cleaned up in the second half as the Heat finished 11/25 from downtown. Against a Miami team hampered by injuries with only 9 available players, the Knicks were able to get away with it. But with elite teams, we’d be looking at the wrong end of a blowout.

Tomorrow night, the Cavaliers will show us how much we’ve progressed since opening night. Being this is the third game in four nights, it won’t come easy.

Knicks Frontcourt Subdues Heat


MIAMI — The Knicks made it three in a row last night with an efficient, disciplined performance on both ends against the Heat.

PAINT DOMINANCE: On the offensive end, the Knicks got huge games from the starting frontcourt of Melo (25 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), Robin Lopez (19 points, 2 blocks) and Kristaps Porzingis (12 points, 2 blocks). Melo shot 75% from the field, using a balanced attack from inside and mid-range. Porzingis struggled with his shot, but hit double figures in the second half by getting to the line. And Rolo put his full arsenal on display with putbacks, spin moves and his pet baby hook shot.

D-WILL SPARK: Once again, Derrick Williams was the key bench contributor, helping New York maintain their fourth quarter double digit lead. He had 13 points (5/8) to go along with 8 rebounds. The most clutch bucket was a fourth quarter three-pointer with the shot-clock expiring. It pushed the lead back to double digits and seemed to deflate Miami’s confidence.

PORZINGIS STAYS FOCUSED: Chris Bosh had a monster game (28 points) and seemed to relish taking our rookie to school. He got a nice driving dunk at KP’s expense, and Whiteside followed up with his own slam over the Latvian giant. Porzingis didn’t get rattled, and came back from the Bosh dunk for an alley oop on the next possession. Earlier, he had two good blocks on Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade.

He’s not going to block every shot, but I like the fact Porzingis is never afraid to contest, even after getting yammed on like below.


No Competition: Heat Destroy Knicks 108-82


Like there was ever any doubt. The Knicks limped into last night’s showdown in South Beach on a three-game losing streak and left in tatters after getting a 108-82 beatdown. As usual, we got to see what a competent team looks like vs. the mess we’ve been putting on the floor for most of the season. Here’s how the massacre went down.

TEAM GREATNESS: Melo upheld his end going toe to toe with Lebron. Melo scored 29 points (55% shooting) and nabbed 7 rebounds. He kept the Knicks in it after a shaky first quarter, and helped ignite the second and third quarters runs that pulled New York within single digits. In addition, our leader put LeBron on a poster via a two-handed stuff at the rim. Masked Lebron wasn’t shabby either, dropping 31 points (68% shooting) along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

So why was the disparity so great on the score despite the two biggest stars competing on even terms? It’s the fact LeBron has an excellent team around him to pick up the slack. When Melo goes out the game, the team goes into freefall. When Bron sits, he has the luxury of his fellow All-Stars in either Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh stepping up. Last night it was Wade, who scored 23 points and helped push the lead to double digits in both halfs. The Heat team defense was also surperb with multiple players guarding Melo for different looks and forcing the rest of the Knicks team to try to make plays.

Melo had 24 points at the half (nearly have of the Knicks points). The starting Heat backcourt of Wade and Chalmers finished with 34 points on 71% shooting. Meanwhile, the Knicks tandem of Rayond Felton and Pablo Prigioni finished with 2 POINTS ON 10% SHOOTING. Add to JR Smith trying to guard LeBron (and losing him multiple times in transition for dunk just seconds after the Knicks scored), and you had a recipe for a bad defeat.

WADE ABUSES THJ: It’s no secret that Hardaway Jr.’s biggest weakness is his defense. Last night, he fell for every Wade pumpfake and move you can think of. To make it worse, we didn’t get his usual offense to offset the schooling, as Tim managed just 6 points on 2-15 shooting.

BLACK HOLE OF DEFENSE: We don’t have many lineup choices, but one that must never be seen again is any that includes Amar’e Stoudemire and Hardaway together. Combined, the two were a horrific -64 in the +/- department with the score quickly running back up to the double digits whenever they shared the floor.

The Knicks have little time to lick their wounds, as they’ll host the Golden State Warriors tonight at MSG.

50 to the Head — Melo Lights Up Short-Handed Heat, Knicks’ Streak Hits Nine


So what Dwyane Wade and LeBron James weren’t playing tonight? The Knicks were missing their own superstars in Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace! In all seriousness, I had some mixed feelings coming into tonight’s final regular season meeting between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat. On one hand, I wanted our winning streak to be tested against a fully healthy version of the defending champs. On the other hand, an “easy win” on paper was needed, as the Knicks and Pacers are literally changing places between #2 and #3 in the East every game. In the end, the Knicks got a win they absolutely had to have, and move on step closer to winning their first Atlantic division title since 1994.

AN INEXCUSABLE FIRST HALF: Things started off good enough in the first quarter with a red-hot Carmelo Anthony going on an 8-0 run all by himself, But as the game settled in, the small Knicks backcourt of Pablo Prigioni and Raymond Felton had problems with Chris Anderson’s rolls to the rim and getting over screens. After leading 27-25 after one, the Knicks forgot about defense and got torched by Mike Miller of all people for 13 points (18 at the half). Look here… there is no excuse for Miller to be lighting anyone up in 2013. The defensive switches were bad for the Knicks as were the useless double teams. The NY guards in particular were being beat at will by Norris Cole and Ray Allen into the paint. Tyson Chandler was still out of sync so his post presence wasn’t much of a factor with the Heat holding a 28-6 scoring edge in the paint and a 58-50 lead at halftime.

The offense wasn’t much better for the Knicks. JR Smith was having a very difficult time getting into the paint, but to his credit he stuck with his newfound game and had 9 points to compliment Melo’s 27.

THE ROAD BACK: It was a still a one-man show on offense for the Knicks with Melo having 42 points by the end of the third quarter. The main change was the defense. Miller was held scoreless as the closeouts and rotations were vastly improved. The Knicks forced Cole to make tough decisions, leading to rushed and contested shots. The Knicks had some sloppy turnovers late that prevented them from getting any additional breathing room. However, a Melo drive and kick out for a Steve Novak trey at the buzzer gave the Knicks a slim 78-76 lead going into the fourth.

GRINDED AND SPIT OUT: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the fourth quarter would be a grind out 12 minutes and it was in the early going. Kenyon Martin, who had been providing his usual good defense all game, smashed home a two-handed slam over Chris Anderson. Raymond Felton came alive in getting into the lane and also working a long jumper to extend the NY lead to 84-78. But the Heat battled back behind Chris Bosh’s ability to draw fouls inside to tie it at 86 with 7:49 remaining.

The biggest break for the Knicks came with them clinging to an 90-88 lead and Bosh throwing a nice one-handed pass to an open Shane Battier. The three-pointer barely missed, and the Knicks immediately called time to regroup. From that point on, with 5-6 minutes left, the Heat would not score another field goal.

Melo closed the show in efficient and deadly fashion, hitting quick, long jumpers and a three-pointer to push the Knicks ahead 95-88. Bosh’s attempt at a layup resulted in a loud, nasty block from Tyson Chandler. The scoring dagger would be JR Smith’s trey that made it 99-88 with under 2 minutes to play.

On the Knicks’ last possession, JR informed Melo that he was one field goal off from 50, promptly Melo to casually swish another long jumper to equal his career-high.

MELO STARTS OFF APRIL CORRECT: Last April it was Melo who willed us into the playoffs with off the charts play. If his play from tonight is any indication, we may get another amazing month. Melo’s 50 points came on 18/26 shooting (7/10 from downtown). Who’s bright idea on the Heat’s coaching staff was it to give Udonis Haslem extended minutes guarding Melo?

ANOTHER SEASON SERIES GOES TO THE KNICKSTAPE: A few days ago the Knicks took the season series from Boston 3-1. Tonight, Miami got the same treatment, with their lone win being achieved by coming back from a 16-point deficit. The playoffs are an entirely different animal, but the Knicks will enter it with confidence against the best team in the league should they meet in the conference finals.

Next up tomorrow night are the Hawks down in Atlanta. Let’s see if Melo’s hot shooting carries over.

Knicks Implode in Second Half, Fall to Heat 99-93


I needed 24 hours to cool down before writing about this game. For one quarter, the Knicks looked like the formidable team we saw in November and December — sweet passing, hot three-point shooting and our bigs rolling to the basket for easy slams. As expected, the Miami Heat made a second half run that was exacerbated by bad defensive rotations and head-scratching lineups down the stretch. No, yesterday’s game isn’t a sole reason to become irate as a Knicks fan, but it sure as hell was one to make you highly annoyed.

JASON KIDD RESURRECTED: Without question, the Knicks highlight of the game was Kidd retrieving his jumper from El Segundo. The man was on fire in the first half in nailing fourth straight treys.  In addition, he nabbed eight rebounds, caused several deflections and got three steals. The Heat defense phased him out in the second half, but hopefully this performance will do wonders for his confidence.

REALLY ONE GOOD QUARTER: A lot has been going around over the last 24 hours about the Knicks playing really well over the first half, but it was really just the second quarter, where NY outscored Miami 37-22. In the first, no one could score outside of Melo, who had 17 of NY’s 22 points.

THE WALKING USELESS: James White got the starting assignment again and might as well have been wearing a Heat uniform. In less than five minutes, he had three fouls, one of which being a three-point play given up to Mario Chalmers on the Heat’s first possession.

Steve Novak had three open looks from downtown that he bricked. His biggest detriment was on defense, where he gave up a defensive rebound by being out-hustled by Ray Allen which lead to the LeBron James trey that tied the game.

Why these two got burn while Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby languished on the bench was mind-blowing.

JR GUNNING: Jr Smith went 5-18 from the field and took 14 treys! Where was the leash for this man? Another Woodson blunder had JR still in chucking while benching Stoudemire, who had been giving Miami fits down low. JR was handling the ball way too much with his more blatant mistakes being two telegraphed cross-court passes that LeBron picked off (the last being the game-killer in the last 30 seconds).

MELO HURT AND SHUT DOWN: Melo had 24 points at halftime but injured his arm on a three-pointer in the second. He only went 3-11 in the second half which was combination of James, the Heat help defense, and Stat not being on the floor. When they did play together, Melo’s pick and roll with Stat lead to two easy dunks.

GET IT TOGETHER, WOODY: Coach Woodson is quick to give guys the Ice Cube early 90’s screwface when they mess up. He needs to give himself that face in the mirror. The Heat experimented with many lineups, but in crunch time their Big Three is on the floor, and that’s why they closed the fourth strong (outscoring the Knicks 26-16). On our end, Stat rotted on the bench while JR was cold and the Heat defense zeroed in on Melo.

And again, not playing K-Mart or Camby while guys like Novak weren’t scoring and getting the red-headed stepchild treatment is inexcusable.

CRYING AND GIVING UP POINTS: Sure, LeBron James did his share of complaining (and even gets caught on camera calling a ref a “bitch ass nigga..”). But guess what — King James doesn’t do it when the game is still in play. Raymond Felton did it at the end of the third and didn’t get back on defense, leading to an open three-pointer from Shane Battier that brought the Heat within four, 77-73. In the fourth, James got away with a foul on Chandler, who sat on his ass and literally threw a fit while James sprinted back, got an offensive rebound, and put in a layup to get the Heat up 91-87. Those two sequences where huge momentum swings and five important points the Knicks literally gave away.

The Knicks get to redeem themselves tonight in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. This is by no means a guaranteed win, as the Knicks have had a lot of problems winning up there in recent years going back to the LeBron era.