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.

Home Workout: Knicks Easily Dispose of Pacers 88-76

Another game, another double-digit win for the Knicks. The offense wasn’t exactly on fire, but  the Knicks defense, forcing 19 turnovers and nabbing 9 steals, held the Pacers to 76 points (the lowest the Knicks have held a team this season) for a 12 point victory.

Melo got back to his fast starting ways, dropping 12 points in the first quarter to give the Knicks a 21-18 lead. The defense held serve in the second, holding the Pacers to just 12 points to push the lead to 41-30 at halftime.

Fouls were still a problem for Melo this game; he had to sit early in the third when he picked up two quick fouls in the lane trying to guard Tyler Hansbrough. Novak came in and helped the offense with a few 3s, but also hurt the defensive closeouts, as Paul George got hot from 3-point range and sinked three in the quarter. The Pacers hovered around the 9-point deficit mark but missed 4 free throws down the stretch and Rasheed Wallace sunk a 3 to give the Knicks a 68-56 edge despite a 26-point quarter from Indiana.

New York put the Pacers in their place early in the fourth behind several JR Smith jumpers and Melo forcing fouls inside despite getting blocked several times. Marcus Camby got some valuable minutes and made sure Roy Hibbert stayed locked up (Camby got a massive block inside on Roy). JR got his own block on David West which lead to a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 79-60. Later, a Novak 3 gave NY a 86-66 advantage, leading to the starters hitting the bench and the Pacers challenging no further in garbage time.

The shooting was weak from both squads: NY shot 36% and Indiana 39%. The defense was the difference-maker and the fact Indiana has been lost offensively without leading scorer Danny Granger. Melo lead all scorers with 26 points, followed on the Knicks end by JR Smith (13), and Raymond (11) as the only other guys to score in double digits. Paul George lead Indiana with 20.

On a very happy note, this was the first game we were NOT outrebounded; we won the boards battle (barely) 48-47. Hey, we gotta start somewhere. It was a nice bounce-back win from the battering we took from the Grizzlies and we have a pretty favorable run for the rest of the week (New Orleans, Dallas, Houston and Detroit) before the big showdown next Monday at MSG 2 (The Barclays Center) to face the Brooklyn Nets.

Next up is a road game tomorrow against the Hornets.

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…

And Still Undefeated! JR and Melo Lift Knicks Past Mavs 104-94

It wasn’t a pretty game. Melo referred to it in his post-game interview as an “ugly, grind-out win.” The threes weren’t falling like they did in the first few games while the Mavs were red hot in the first half behind the arc. But the Knicks held strong through their defense and got hot at the right time behind a scroching 3rd quarter from JR Smith to take a 104-94 win and remain the NBA’s only undefeated time at 4-0.

The Mavs’ OJ Mayo, who has been a monster at the season’s start with several 30 points games, set the tone for his squad immediately by sinking a three-pointer to start the game. The Knicks didn’t find many fast breaks opportunities but relied on Melo working rookie Jae Crowder off the block to the tune of 10 points in the opening quarter. Raymond Felton thrived as well in dropping five assists early (finishing with nine), several being easy pick and rolls with Tyson for slams and alley oops.

Marcus Camby made his Knicks return after a 10 absence which helped immediately with rebounding, but not with Mayo’s deadly shooting (two threes to start the second quarter). Steve Novak was cold in missing his first three shots, leading to the Mavs going on a 8-0 run. The ghost of Vince Carter also found his jumper and posted up JR Smith twice for quick buckets to give the Mavs a 39-30 lead. Although Dallas was shooting 50% for three, the Knicks climbed back to tie it 44-44 behind a three point play from Ronnie Brewer and a three-pointer from Melo. However, the Mavs would finish the quarter with a 57-55 behind an emotional Melo getting a tech  for complaining about a missed foul and sitting after getting three fouls. In addition, the Mavs were finishing strong at the rim, especially a highlight worthy facial on Rasheed Wallace to close the half.

Although Mayo nailed another three to start the third, it would thankfully be the last they’d make the rest of the half. Jason Kidd was strong defensively — the veteran guard got some key steals for fast breaks and caught OJ Mayo with his fourth foul on a charge, removing the Mavs’ best shooter from the floor. The Knicks had the same problem, as Melo getting too aggressive on D forced him to sit with roughly seven minutes left in the third with four fouls. The interior defense gave up a few inside shots to Chris Kaman and Crowder, but JR Smith started getting hot with his jumper to push the Knicks in front 78-71, and later Novak found the range from three to maintain a 82-76 lead.

It was nip and tuck for a large chunk of the fourth with Kaman getting to post-up and JR Smith making a few ill-advised fouls. But JR made up for it with deflections that lead to steals, and Chandler putting a statement on the game with a putback dunk off a Melo missed layup for a 12-point lead with six minutes remaining. At that point, both squads got very sloppy with missed free throws and fouls, but NY’s lead was enough to see them down the stretch to the 104-94 win.

The Mavs didn’t get held in the 80s, but the Knicks defense succeeded in causing 20 turnovers while keeping theirs to 9 (they average 12). The scoring was impressive with Melo dropping 31, Smith 22 and Brewer 13. The defense was tenacious with multiple steals from Felton (2), Kidd (3), Brewer (2) and Smith (4). This is our best start since the Finals 1993-1994 squad and our home record under Mike Woodson has been extended to 12-2, the two losses coming in the regular and post-season to the Miami Heat.

There will still be some detractors being that the Mavs were missing Dirk Nowitzski and Shawn Marion, but it’s very hard for me to have any sympathy for banged squads when we have been without our second-leading scorer (Amar’e Stoudemire) and best perimeter defender (Iman Shumpert). Hell, we just got our backup center on the floor last night with Camby. We have a very big game coming up next Thursday on the road against the Spurs, but we have to stay focused and take care of business in our next one, a Tuesday game against the Magic. Orlando is in a freefall at the moment having lost their last three, but we need to up for them and not fall into a “trap game.”

Until then, let’s enjoy being the only remaining undefeated team in NBA!

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Have Another L, Philly: Knicks Complete Back to Back Sweep 110-88

WELLS FARGO ARENA, PHILADELPHIA — It was the epitome of a “trap game.” After delivering a 100-84 thrashing to the Sixers yesterday in the first of home back to backs, it was as Walt “Clyde” Frazier called “human nature” to expect for the Knicks to collectively slack and possibly suffer their first loss. Very early it looked like that might very well be the case. Philly jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead as the Knicks started sluggish, going 2-7 from the field.

Then the sleeping giant was awakened.

The Knicks would go on a 21-7 run to finish the quarter with a 25-21 lead and went on to break Philly’s will by the third quarter for their third straight blowout and first road win of the season.

The Sixers stayed in it through the second quarter with their ridiculous three pointers. Outside of that, there wasn’t much they could get going due to our superb guard defense. Felton and Prigioni would get several steals leading to multiple Chandler dunks. Although Melo’s jumper was off (5-12 in the first half), the rest of the team picked up the scoring to the tune of seven Knicks players getting in double digits. A Nick Young three would trim the lead to 56-48 in favor of the Knicks, but their play made the deficit seem much larger.

The Knicks came out for the third with the intention to take Philly’s soul and did just that. Melo kicked off the proceedings by making his first two buckets and swatting a weak Kwame Brown shot. Ronnie Brewer, who’s scouting report cites him as a week shooter, was in an amazing rhythm and knocking down open treys, one of which pushed the lead to 13. Moments later another Brewer 3 pointer would push the lead to 18, effectively putting the game would be out of reach.

Rasheed Wallace got in some valuable time and scored eight points in just five minutes, including two 3 pointers. By the time the quarter had ended, the Knicks had outscored the Sixers 33-20.

Did the Knicks let up in the fourth quarter? Nope. Matter of fact, the squad kept the defense strong as if they wanted to completely embarrass Philly. JR Smith played with ice water in his veins, hitting long threes and a fast break dunk off a Pablo Prigioni steal that effectively snatched any remaining fight out of the Sixers.

We’re now 3-0 which is the best start since the 99-2000 season. That season just happens to be the last time we were in the Eastern Conference Finals, a goal most fans believe we should be shooting for this year. The Knicks played with playoff intensity and sent a clear message to a division rival that they’re on different levels. I can’t get over how great our guard play has been. Brewer was on fire (13 points, 5-8 shooting, 3-4 from downtown). If that man can show consistent range from three, that just gives us yet another weapon on the outside. Raymond Felton continued his excellent play, scoring 16 points and dishing 8 assists.

Three games, three blowouts and three teams held under 100 points. This team has me so excited and the rest of the league is starting to take notice. We had a tough Western Conference road trip looming so these next few days of rest will serve us well. The next victim… I mean opponent will be on Friday when the Knicks take on the Mavs at home.

In Ball Movement We Trust: Knicks Trounce the Heat 104-84

Yesterday morning, I prayed to the basketball gods that my beloved Knicks would kick off the 2012-2013 season with a nice win. But even in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t imagine my team absolutely drubbing the defending champion Miami Heat in a 20-point blowout (104-84).

For the past few months, Knicks fans have had to endure ridicule for picking up older players and being called “the second best team in New York.” Last night’s performance went a long way to shutting those critics up: Jason Kidd was integral in setting the ball movement early on along with Kurt Thomas supplying solid interior defense. Raymond Felton was phenomenal with his dribble penetration that freed up Melo for several 3 pointers in route to a 16 point first quarter and a 33-17 lead.

The ball movement continued in the second quarter to the tune of 11 assists. The defense produced 12 Heat turnovers and prevented that team’s signature fast break dominance (only 10 fast break points).

Last year our squad would routinely come out flat in third quarters and quickly blow whatever lead we had. Not so last night — although we got off to a sloppy start, our defense kept the Heat turning the ball over while Novak sank a few timely 3s to halt a late 8-0 run.

The Heat made their final run through the first few minutes of the fourth, spurred on by a few ticky-tack fouls. However, Felton and Novak both sank 3s, the latter being a beautiful escape dribble to the left that faked out Ray Allen. The game was iced by the final five minutes, and Wade and LeBron made their exists while Rasheed Wallace chants rained down at MSG. The grizzled vet blew the roof off with a final 3 pointer to make it 19 from downtown (!!!) for the night.

As Biggie’s “Hypnotize” seranaded the court post-game, I couldn’t think of a better way to start to the season. The ball movement from Kidd, Prigioni and Felton was a startling reminder of what we lacked last year. Another key aspect is that we closed every quarter strong. Last season, the Heat always picked us apart in the last minutes of quarters. This time, we met every run with timely shots that had them discouraged for a change.

The great thing about last night is there’s still room for improvement. On the injury front, we still have the returns of Shumpert, Camby and Stoudemire to look forward to. Melo dropped 30, but he got a little out of sorts in the second half by gunning and forcing too many shots. Once he reigns that in a little more and continues attacking the basket…watch out. JR Smith had one of his “brickhouse” games offensively, but made up for it by staying focused on defense (outside of a highly dumb offensive foul on a Kidd fast break).

Enjoy this win, fellow Knicks fans. We have another tough one tomorrow with division rival Philly. Let’s hope our squad continues to show the improvements and we don’t get a letdown.

Stay tuned for much more Knicks coverage as this site builds and gets off the ground fully in the next few weeks.

COURTSIDE HIGHLIGHTS