The New York Knicks began the season with unselfish ball movement, unstoppable three point shooting and excellent defense. It was too good to last for a very long time, and are once again at the mercy of individual performances – usually those of Carmelo Anthony, but for a second straight game, J.R. Smith coming off the bench is the one who steals the show.
During the first half, it looked like the Knicks are on their way to a huge win, resembling the ability from earlier this season. But then the officials decided to make it into a tight game, giving the Grizzlies foul shot after foul shot, turning a 30 point deficit into a minuscule 5. Eventually, a huge corner 3 from Jason Kidd, his only points of the game, kept the Grizzlies at a safe distance, as the Knicks won 108-101, now owning the longest winning streak in the NBA with 6.
J.R. Smith led the team with 35 points off the bench, becoming the first to have back-to-back 30-point games off the bench since Al Harrington. Smith was once again rather composed in his shot selection (10-18), not trying too many three pointers (“only” 7, making 3 of them) while also going for 12-13 from the line. Carmelo Anthony had to settle for 22 points on a rather patient 8-20 from him in his shooting.
The Knicks, at their best, despite not having Chandler and Stoudemire, are a team that does get Anthony plenty of touches, but should have an air of unselfishness on every possession. That was the spirit earlier on in the season, when they beat the Miami Heat twice by 20 points, raining down three pointers on every chance they got. At the moment it isn’t looking as pretty, with the offense too often stuck in the hands of one player, while Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd do not have the kind of influence they had during the 2012 stage of this season.
Title contenders? Hard to see anyone from the East, even with Anthony and Smith in excellent scoring form, budging Miami from their position as conference conquerors. The best they can hope for is a second place seeding, and a respectable performance in the conference final. Anything else and more will be a huge surprise.