Knicks Hammer Celtics 116-92 for 5th Straight Win

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The Knicks extended their winning streak to five games with a wire to wire win over a fiesty but ultimately hapless Boston Celtics team playing without Rajon Rondo. New York was short-handed as well, missing Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, but got a strong double double from an unassuming big man making his first NY start.

ALDRICH DELIVERS: While Melo put up the big points, Cole Aldrich was the game’s most essential player. In 25 minutes, he scored 12 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and swatted 3 shots. His presence was a +19 on the floor, and he provided much-needed rim protection in the early fourth quarter when the Celtics made a run behind a monster night from Jeff Green (27 points).

Aldrich isn’t the most polished player, but this game is a good indicator that he can provide solid spot minutes. The early second and fourth quarters, when the Knicks are prone to blow leads, would be an ideal place to incorporate Aldrich.

MELO’S EFFECTIVE AND INEFFECTIVE GUNNING: Carmelo Anthony was gunning for most of this game. In the first half, it wasn’t a problem as he scored 19 points (3/4 from downtown). The Knicks as a whole were pretty much hitting everything, shooting 61% from the field for 68 points.

The shot selection became an issue in the third with Anthony going too heavy into iso mode and chucking well contested shots. On the other end, Green was driving to the rim and hitting jumpers, allowing the Celtics to pull within 9 points (84-75) after being down by as much as 24.

Thankfully, Melo and company settled down early in the fourth. On the first play, Melo drove and kicked to Prigioni for an open trey. Later, a shot-clock beating three from Melo made it 95-77, and the Celtics never fully recovered.

HARDAWAY CONTINUES TO SHINE: After a spell of bad games, Hardaway Jr. looks to have regained his confidence. No longer relying on just threes and aggressive drives, the rookie has incorporated a very reliable mid-range jumper. Last night, he got big minutes (38) off the bench and delivered 22 points on 7/11 shooting.

EVERY GAME CRUCIAL: The Knicks moved within 3 games of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Atlanta. The Knicks will need a lot of help to make it, but their play on this streak indicates they’re up for the task.

[Video] Knicks Destroy Cavs 117-86

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What a difference a month makes. Around this time in December, the Knicks were getting embarrassed in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving running amuch for 37 points and 11 assists. That was against a Knicks team with no identity. Last night, New York never let the Cavs in it after blitzing them with a 38-21 first quarter, and holding off all comeback attempts over the remaining 36 minutes to take a well-deserved 117-8 6 win at Madison Square Garden. Like all Knicks blowouts this year, it was a total team effort on this one.

JR’S BACK?: After being on the verge of getting shipped out just a few weeks back, JR Smith is finally returning to the excellent form we saw at the end of last season. Starting in place of the injured Iman Shumpert, JR sliced up the Cavs defense with strong drives to the rim and long-range jumpers. It was a case of erratic shots falling — JR played within the offense and shot 8/16 for 19 points, including this collection of breath-taking plays below.

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THJ!!!: Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to shine in his expanded role and thank God Coach Mike Woodson is riding the hot streak. Tim dropped a career high of 29 points, going 11/17 from the field and 6/12 from downtown. Once this kid learns defense, watch out.

EFFICIENT TO THE LAST MAN: Melo (29 points, 5 rebounds), Chandler (11 points, 8 rebounds), and Felton (12 points, 9 rebounds) had good games, along with Jeremy Tyler (8 points, 6 rebounds). The team was shooting over 60% for most of the game while holding the Cavs under 40%. New York would wrap up the contest on 57% shooting from the field and a hot 46% (12/26) from downtown.

The Knicks get to put their win streak to the test against the defending champion Miami Heat on Saturday.

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[Video] Shump the Closer — Knicks 92, Mavs 80

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It’s not the 3-0 Texas sweep it should have been, but we’ll take it. The Knicks came out with the same fire they showed earlier this week against the Rockets, but made better decisions down the stretch to pull out a 92-80 victory over the Mavericks, making it a 2-1 trip to the Lone Star state with an additional win over San Antonio.

MELO STARTS IT, SHUMP ENDS IT: Carmelo Anthony came out on fire in the first quarter, scoring 15 of his 19 points. The Mavs looked lethargic and the Knicks took full advantage on offense and defense, outscoring Dallas 29-17 and holding their shooting under 40%.

In the final minutes of the fourth with the Mavs down just six points, Iman Shumpert scored seven points in the remaining two minutes to ice the game, including a fearless layup drive around Dirk Nowitzki. His stat sheet will only show 9 points, but they were the most impactful of the game (along with his three steals, one coming late in the third to stifle a Mavs run). Defense wins games, and with Shumpert refocused in that area, there is absolutely no reason to not have him on the court during crunch time.

K-MART GETS NY THROUGH SCORING DROUGHT: Down 52-35 at halftime, the Mavs made a strong push in the third while the Knicks went ice-cold on offense. Vince Carter, Jose Calderon, and Monta Ellis all nailed treys to help get the lead in single digits. However, Kenyon Martin had one of his better games of the season, scoring the majority of his 14 points in the third quarter to allow the Knicks to maintain a 10-point lead (67-57) going into the fourth.

STOP THE JR SMITH LOVE AFFAIR, WOODY: I’m on record as giving JR until the All-Star break to get it together. Nonetheless, that doens’t mean play him when it’s a detriment to the team. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 10 points, including a crucial three-point play in the third. He provided good minutes early in the fourth before getting pulled for JR, who immediately had issues not turning the ball over and leaving Mavs guards open on the perimeter. If it wasn’t for Shumpert, the Mavs might have stolen this one.

JR did at least provide one hilarious moment during the game.

NOW DO IT AT HOME: The Knicks have been a decent road team and horrible at home. For the rest of the month, 10 of the 13 games NY plays will be at home. This will likely be the period that makes or breaks our playoff hopes considering the majority of the opponents have sub-.500 records.

Melo the Closer – Knicks 111, Hawks 106

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The Knicks overcame the heartbreak of Friday’s defeat in Boston by putting together a wholly efficient offensive performance to take a 111-106 victory over a red-hot shooting Atlanta Hawks team at Madison Square Garden. Outside of one moping player, all was well in NYC last night.

 

GOOD AND BAD DEFENSE: The Knicks did an excellent job of disrupting the Hawks offense with deflections and steals. They forced 12 turnovers in the first half and 27 for the entire game. It was completely necessary to offset the scorching shooting of the Hawks, who shot around 60% for most of the game. The percentage was due to the inside dominance of Paul Millsap (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Al Horford (17 points, 6 rebounds) coupled with the Knicks guards amazingly losing Kyle Korver on the perimeter (13 points, 4-9 from three).

THE SPARKS: We know Melo will get his, but the question with this Knicks team is who backs up our star player. Last night it was Tim Hardaway Jr. (13 points) who was aggressive getting to the rim for several dunks in the first half. Stoudemire (9 points, 5 rebounds) had a quieter game by his recent standards, but his output was great in getting the Knicks breathing room in the second quarter despite the Hawks shooting around 56% in the first half.

MELO THE FOCUS BUT TEAM EFFORT: The second half is where the team has had problems and in the third bad defense reared its ugly head. The Knicks had a 62-48 lead after the first few minutes, but left Korver open for back to back treys to help ignite a 15-6 run. ATL could not miss from the perimeter and were just behind 81-77 going into the fourth.

Up until that point, Melo had shot 9/15 from the field. There were a few rushed shots from him, but outside of that the team made his job much easier. Prigioni was dishing sweet passes to Melo and Bargnani. And speaking of Prigioni, his shooting kept the defense honest, dropping 11 points (3-6 from downtown). This gave NY a nice 15-point cushion late — under those cirmcumstances, Melo’s heat-check three, which went in to make the lead 106-93, was welcomed. Melo ended with another good stat line of 35 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

The reason for the seemingly close score was Atlanta hitting four straight threes in less than two minutes of garbage time.

SULKING JR: Although JR Smith got the starting assignment at small forward, he managed just 1-8 from the field in 24 minutes (benched for all of the 4th). He looked like he was at a funeral on the sidelines with Prigioni trying to console him. This comes on the heels of JR just attempting one shot against Boston.

A lot of fans are ready to ship JR out, but my memory is not short. His bench play last year was key in our team finishing at the second seed. With the knee surgery, I’ll give JR at least until the All-Star break to get it together.

1ST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

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