One of the things that’s quite easily noticed about the New York Knicks this season is their tendency to simply quit on basketball games early on, or go numb during fourth quarters. For once, they played the whole game through, with Carmelo Anthony putting on what might be his best performance this season, leading to a 111-106 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
So while the Hawks continuously avoid staying above .500 for more than one game, the Knicks are once again on the upper side of their roller coaster season, as each win seems like a mental breakthrough that will bring with it happier returns and days. However, even in the Eastern conference, their 7-16 record isn’t anything to be proud about, or a reason to be too optimistic.
The offense was once again carried by Anthony (scoring 35 points and adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists) and Andrea Bargnani (23 points, 6 rebounds), but it was actually that effort we mentioned earlier, especially on defense, forcing 27 turnovers off the very confused Hawks, that led to the win. Most of it came from Pablo Prigioni, looking more and more in place as the lone starting point guard with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert next to him in the extended backcourt, finishing with 4 steals and a great job on Jeff Teague, who scored only 4 points.
Prigioni also believes this might be a turning point in this so far sad season – I believe we can change this situation by working hard every day and try to play 100 percent every possession, every day, and I don’t know, keep going. We can’t be sad because of what we did in the last 20 games. We have to look in front and just keep going.
The good times of Amare Stoudmire couldn’t go on forever and like the rest of the bench unit he didn’t give much to the game. He scored 9 points on 4-of-8 from the field, as the Knicks pretty much stuck to their lineup, despite getting almost nothing offensively from Shumpert and Smith on offense (combined to score 5 points, 2-of-10 from the field). Shumpert still hasn’t been traded, and his defense is keeping him valuable to the team. The moments when Tim Hardaway Jr. was on the floor, suddenly the guy who livens up the second unit (13 points) were some of the better the Knicks saw during the game, especially when he was on for Smith, who hasn’t returned to himself ever since his elbow in the playoffs last year.
There’s offensive talent on this team, enough to hide their defensive problems on some nights against certain opponents if the focus, passion and effort are there. At some point it’s less about X’s and O’s, never the strong suit with Woodson and these Knicks, and more about who is willing to dig this team out of the mud they’re stuck in. Anthony is playing some great basketball at power forward, but it has to be about more than him. Seeing some excellent play from Prigioni, Stoudemire and Hardaway no a more or less consistent basis might be what pushed the Knicks out of the magic-vicious cycle they’re in since the start of the season, pulling the rest of the team forward with them.