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.

Unblemished No More: Grizzlies Frontline Wears Down Knicks 105-95

This was touted as a matchup between the teams with the two best records in the league. For the first two quarters, both teams executed plays and shot well. New York was shooting over 60% and making key steals, but still couldn’t get more than a 2-3 point lead due to giving up too much second-chance points on the offensive board. Melo was having to work extremely hard on defense, contending with Zach Randolph and Marc, Gasol who both outweighed him by 30-40 pounds. But as he’s shown over the winning streak, Melo made the right passes to guys like Kidd and Brewer for open shots. Unfortunately, Melo had to sit after getting two fouls, as did the Grizzlies’ Rudy Gay, leaving it a tight game of 29-25 in favor of Memphis after one.

Rasheed Wallace went to work in the post in the second, hopefully a sign of future things to come. That forced double teams and allowed for guys like JR Smith to get going with outside jumpers. Unfortunately for NY, Memphis’ outside shooters were hot, in particular their point guard Bayless. Matters would get chippy with him when a JR elbow and Bayless shove resulted in double technicals. The hard play continued and Melo began to complain too much about the lack of calls for him inside. The Grizzlies scrambled hard for every loose ball and even a Knicks block from Rasheed Wallace went in the Grizz’s favor, as the loose ball went to Mike Conley who hit a three to give them a 54-49 halftime lead.

Then disaster struck in the third. Melo caught a suspect third foul early and less than two minutes later got another while being tangled up with Marc Gasol. Melo got irate and earned a technical before hitting the bench. Tyson Chandler got his fourth foul and the team just became unglued. Think the playoffs last year in game 1 where the Heat got a bunch of fouls and ran the Knicks out of the building. This was very similar as the Grizzlies went on a ridiculous 19-1 run and ended up outscoring the Knicks 31-18 for the quarter. Chandler got his fifth foul, coach Woodson his own technical and next thing you know the score was 74-56 Grizzlies.

Chandler’s foul trouble forced Woodson to do something he should have done from the outset; put Kurt Thomas on Randolph. Immediately, Randolph had a much tougher time scoring and had to work harder in the paint for rebounds. Unfortunatly, the damage had been done. Although the Knicks rallied to pull as close as 8 points in the fourth, a few quick  Grizzlies scores off pick and rolls effectively iced the game to give the Knicks their first defeat.

You’d think we would have had a good shot of winning having shot 51%, but having our best players in foul trouble and Woodson being stubborn with the lineup sealed our fate. Thankfully, Woodson is already on record stating some of his substitutions hurt us down the stretch. This game is a clear example that while Melo has had success at the 4 spot, that can become a weakness against a team like the Grizzlies and we have to adjust accordingly.

Melo’s been great this year, but the one glaring flaw he needs to get in check continues to be the ref complaining. He’s going to start to get, if he hasn’t already, a reputation with the refs and the techs will start coming quicker. Our team follows his lead; when he became irate and unfocused in the third, the rest of the team followed suit. I’m sure his patience wasn’t helped matters by getting banged around by Randolph and Gasol, but he needs to check this behavior ASAP.

It’s back home on Sunday to face the Pacers. All in all, it was a good road trip going 2-1. Let’s hope we don’t see Melo trying to guard Roy Hibbert tomorrow.

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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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