Well, this amazing journey of an unearthly Knick turn around continues and, once again, Jeremy Lin lead the charge.
The weekend started with high hopes as the Knicks welcomed the NBA’s second worst team to the garden, the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets miss Emeka Okafor, Eric Gorden and anyone else relevent you can think of. Should have been an easy W right? Wrong. The Knicks fell into an old habit that none of us have missed and that’s playing down to your opponent.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone but it starts with turnovers. Lin totalled 9 turnovers and the team had 21. Yea, that’s no good. But whats surprising about that is that turnovers have been a real issue since Lin became a starter but they had still found a way to win games. So what did NOLA do differently? Well first of all, they beat New York in fast break points 15-11. So think of it this way, in a game where the Knicks lost 89-85, they spotted their opponent 15 points. Well there’s your problem. And it’s not just Lin, Bill Walker continued to take up space on the floor turning the ball over 3 times and scoring only 2 points.
If you can take any good from this very ugly loss, it’s that they came back late and the 4th quarter has been the Knicks best friend lately. This is new. In recent years Knick fans knew that the 4th quarter meant hope for the best but expect the worst. But Jeremy Lin did his thing and erased a 12 point deficit the bring his team within a real chance of stealing one but the early mistakes were too much to over come as New Orleans earned their 7th win of the season. Former Knick Trevor Ariza lead the way with 25 points.
So the win streak ends. Lin still played well so Lin-sanity continues but Lin-sanity still suffers its first loss just 2 days before taking on the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
So Friday’s loss came and went with enough time to get over in time for a Sunday afternoon game on ABC.
The Knicks showed up with a completely different outlook than what they showed on Friday. They were excited, they were focused, they were ready. The Knicks were able to jump out to a respectable lead behind some crafty play from Lin finding his big men down low but the real story of the first half was newly acquired Knick J.R. Smith. Smith came off the bench and hit 3 of his first 4 shots (all of them from down town) to spark the Knick offense and the pumped up Garden crowd (Smith finished with 15).
A note on J.R. Smith if I may. I had been texting with several friends throughout the game and all of the agreed that J.R. Smith should be the starting 2 guard and that this marked the end of Landry Fields. Here is why that’s not gonna happen, at least right away. Smith is basically a 6’6 version of Nate Robinson but without the flashy dunks. Both have the potential to pop off a monster 3 from anywhere on the floor and add that spark that all teams always need at some point. Both are quick, and explosive and really lift the energy level of their team. However, both guys are not consistent in this area. One game you’re in love with them (I.E. Smith on Sunday) other times they enter a game and just provide nothing and you barely notice they’re in the game. As an avid fan this has and will drive you nuts. But that’s what you get from these type of high energy guys. They are best used off the bench where they have the chance to swing the momentum. Fields, I think we can agree on, is starting to figure himself out little by little. The season did not start well for Landry but since a little before Lin came into the picture Fields started stepping his game up. While he only added 4 against NOLA he scored 13 on Sunday against Dallas and lead the Knicks with 15 last Thursday against the Kings. He is getting much stronger under the basket and can throw it down with someone in his face which is huge for this offense. He is starting to play with the right kind of energy for this offense and is on his way up. And for all you who think J.R. Smith should start consider this: Sunday was his very first actual basketball related activity since signing with the team. He has not practiced or participated in a shoot around, just kinda threw him out there. That may not have been a fluke but it certainly wasnt because he’s that good at just picking up a system. Like i said, he is an energy guy and that’s what fueled his performance. If Landry starts slipping and making bad mistakes then yes, expect Smith in the starting lineup at some point but before that he is coming off the bench.
Another aspect I have noticed that Steve Novak and his 3-pointer are being leaned on heavier than it seems. Novak shot the ball as poorly as we have seen since joining the team and they did not win. On Sunday he shot it like we have gotten used to. Just money. It’s absurd to say that they live and die by Novak’s 3 but it does make you think. When he is in the game its clear that he will be shooting it from long-range and it’s only a matter of time before teams start picking up on that. Another big reason for J.R. Smith to come off the bench. Novak added 14 points and was 4 of 5 from down town.
But after the Knicks held off a mini run to maintain a lead at half time, Dallas came out in its German glory in the 3rd quarter. Dirk started to take over and before you realized what was happening, the Knicks were down 12. And it was getting rough too. Tyson Chandler took a beating underneath and some of those fouls had us holding our breath. In particular, that last foul he took in the 3rd looked harder than it is to be Jewish in Russia.
Another question I have right now is why does Jared Jefferies ever put the ball on the floor? Yes, he is a good rebounder, yes you can use him to move the ball around or at least closer to the paint and yes, he is unquestionably the best player in the league at drawing charges. But the guy has hands like stone. I mean the down low game has greatly improved since the return of Amare but where the hell was his shot on Sunday?! brick after brick after brick if he wasn’t slamming it home it wasn’t going in. Amare finished with 11 and 7 rebounds.
But in the 4th, Lin did his thing and came to life, hit some big 3’s and played 46 minutes in one of the most exciting games we have seen in the garden in a while. but 46 minutes is a lot for this young man to play. Granted, they need him out there but that’s only gonna happen so many times before he starts to break down. But there is a solution to this in the form of Barron Davis who dressed yesterday. When Barron comes back, there will be far less pressure on him which will be great having him come off the bench for 10-20 minutes a game and let Lin get some much-needed breathers.
So we look ahead to tonight where the Knicks welcome back the team that all this started against, the New Jersey Nets. Both teams are welcoming back superstars, The Nets Brook Lopez (this will only be his second appearance this year) and The Knicks Carmelo Anthony.
All eyes are on the Knicks and wondering how he will mesh with this new look team. Many believe he will ruin the flow but I don’t see that happening. Melo is very unselfish and truly wants to win. He no longer has to take 35-40 shots per game and the offense does not have to run through him any more. Yes, you will see him featured far more than Bill Walker was but if the rest of the team can play the way they have over these past 2 weeks that will open up space for Melo to run isolation and really make all five guys a weapon (with good ball movement).
The Knicks, out of nowhere, suddenly have some real depth here. Can’t wait to see what happens with Melo tonight but it really does look like good things are coming.
Tip off is at 7:30