The most memorable thing about the New York Knicks coming away with a surprising 92-80 road win over the Dallas Mavericks? Not Carmelo Anthony leading the team in scoring, but J.R. Smith untying Shawn Marion’s shoe before the two contested for a free throw rebound.
While there’s certainly plenty of humor and laughs in the quick thinking that Smith showed, it’s also one of the dirtier moves we’ve seen from a basketball player in recent times – one that’s going to land Smith in a lot of trouble. A fine, and possibly more.
But besides J.R. Smith finding more ways besides shooting an unreasonable amount of bad shots, the Knicks are rolling since the turn of the new year. Wins over the Spurs and the Mavs with a close loss to the Rockets completing a mostly successful Texas trip. The main difference between the 2014 Knicks and the ones that were one of the worst in the league during the first two months of the season? Energy.
This time it was brought by Kenyon Martin, playing 29 minutes off the bench, as an under the weather Tyson Chandler couldn’t last very long, playing only four minutes before being taken out for good. Martin scored 14 points, adding 6 rebounds as the Knicks dominated the paint while he was on the floor.
The Mavs struggled in the paint with Samuel Dalembert not playing, punished for coming late to practice. DeJuan Blair started, but the Mavs played a lot of small ball against the Knicks. Last season showed us that during the regular season, even the Miami Heat really struggled playing with that tactic against the Knicks.
Iman Shumpert didn’t have a big scoring night (only 9 points), but there’s a huge difference to his game over the last week. A lot more energy, not to mention using his head and thinking, giving up tough shots and almost always making the smart play to help his team instead of copying J.R. Smith and doing the most frustrating thing possible.
Carmelo Anthony was the team’s top scorer with 19 points, although he didn’t score even one during the first quarter while Shawn Marion was guarding him. Marion later had problems with his ankle, finishing with 1-of-6 from the field, but it also denied him from playing good defense, allowing Anthony or anyone else Marion was on to score with more ease.
The Mavericks can’t afford to lose these kind of games against bad Eastern teams if they’re going to make the playoffs in the West. However, the blanket is short, and one starting player missing is almost always impossible to cover.
For the Knicks, something has definitely changed, but that was the feeling after every win earlier this season as well. Unless this is a very strong case of New Year’s resolutions, it won’t be surprising to see them sulk back to their previous quality, which also means that making the playoffs is still a very difficult and hard to reach goal for this team.