Knicks Clinch East #2 Seed In 90-80 Pacers Win

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The Knicks checked off one last regular season goal this afternoon by defeating the Indiana Pacers to not only lock up the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, but also have the luxury of resting key players over the season’s remaining two games. The Pacers weren’t a squad to make it easy though, and they gave the Knicks, specifically Carmelo Anthony, a taste of the rough and physical defense they’ll have to overcome for a deep playoff run.

 

FIRST QUARTER UP AND DOWNS: Melo came out firing hitting his first three shots and scoring the first 11 points for the Knicks. The problem was none of the other Knicks could find their shots and the Pacers remained close until Chris Copeland came in. Along with Felton, Cope sparked an 8-0 run to finish the first 12 minutes with an 23-15 lead.

 

MELO JR: Speaking of Cope, or “Melo Jr.” as I’ve started calling him, he did a marvelous job in being the focal point of the second unit. He hit back to back three-pointers to start the second quarter and was integral in the Knicks going on a 21-4 run with Melo on the bench to get a 41-21 lead.

With the Knicks big men still convalescing, Copeland was again relegated to having to guard the center and power forward positions. It was no easy task for him this game as he had David West and Roy Hibbert to contend with. He rose to the challenge defensively, and had one stretch where he stripped Hibbert and then drew an offensive foul on Lance Stephenson.

Cope was the most efficient Knick this afternoon in dropping 20 points on 8/12 shooting. The Knicks are in dire need of having a third option to compliment Melo and JR, and Cope has shown over the the last month he’s the most consistent Knick offensively to do it. His three-point shooting really helps to open up the paint, and he can finish at the rim. I’m hoping for a big first round playoff performance from him.

 

PACERS GOON TACTICS GIVE THE KNICKS AN EARLY TASTE OF THE PLAYOFFS:   Because of their defensive reputations, the refs really let the Pacers roughhouse with the Knicks down low. And to NY’s credit, they gave as good as they got (most of the time). Melo got a tech in the third for complaining too much, but he also made sure to get the ball in the basket, hammering down an angry two-handed stuff after a Hibbert hack wasn’t called.

Hibbert got a flagrant 1 for basically face-palming an Iman Shumpert’s dunk attempt, and Melo had to sit late in the third after suffering a left shoulder contusion from a David West hard foul. Nonetheless, the Knicks kept working in the paint, and two JR Smith drives help to give them some breathing room heading into the fourth with a 69-60 lead.

 

HOW ABOUT OUR DEFENSE?: The Pacers had 24 turnovers in this game (and we didn’t have to maul to do it). Many of them were just savvy plays from the Knicks. Jason Kidd literally snatched the ball out of Lance Stephenson’s hands on a drive to the basket. The 7’2 Roy Hibbert should have had a dominant game with Copeland and Solomon Jones guarding him, but the Knicks trapped extremely well, forcing him into five turnovers and holding the big man to just 4 points.

The problem for the Knicks this game was Lance Stephenson, who was being given way too much room to shoot threes (4/9 from downtown). He did most of his damage in the first half and finished with 22 points.

 

SOLOMON “RAGDOLL” JONES: Coach Woodson saw early on that Jones wasn’t going to be anything but food out there to the Pacer bigs. Hibbert and West had him falling all over the place in the first quarter. In his 13 minutes, he only had 1 rebound as he couldn’t establish any good position in the paint. We’ll see if he fares any better tomorrow, but I doubt it.

 

ELECTRIC RELAXATION: Melo (25 points) made it clear in the post-game that his shoulder is nothing serious. In addition, he confirmed he won’t be playing tomorrow. Now this is the only time it’s permissable to have James White in the starting lineup. Let guys like Novak and Shumpert get ample time to work on their shots, and hopefully Rasheed Wallace will be back to log a few minutes and shake off his rust.

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Melo and Martin Lead Knicks Past Raptors, Clinch Playoff Berth

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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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