Who could have guessed that in Mid-March the New York Knicks would be the hottest team in the Eastern conference? Following their 116-92 win over the Boston Celtics, as Carmelo Anthony enjoys another fantastic game, they’ve won five in a row, and the playoffs that seemed impossible to reach not long ago are now a very real possibility.
Even with all this sudden winning, the Knicks are still three games behind the Hawks. But while the Hawks continue to slide, the Knicks are closing the gap and fast, with Cleveland and Detroit also hot on their tails. As if all the bad stuff we’ve seen from this team this season never happened, the Knicks look like a team that belongs in the playoffs.
And all it took? Simply going with an offensive-oriented lineup. The funny thing is? Momentum carries over, and when the Knicks are forced to play with a very weird starting five that returns Anthony to the ‘4’ position, while Cole Aldrich plays center and we once again see the failed 3-guard look with Felton, Shumpert and J.R. Smith together, it doesn’t seem to actually hurt them. It also doesn’t hurt to play the Celtics, who didn’t use Rajon Rondo on the second night of a back to back.
Anthony led the way with 34 points on 11-of-25 from the field, adding 9 rebounds. Aldrich had a very rare double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but it seems quite rare for a big man playing the Celtics to not finish with impressive rebounding and scoring numbers. The Knicks were up by 20 points at half time after scoring 68, and cruised the rest of the way.
It was a very good performance for Tim Hardaway Jr. scoring 22 points, as the Knicks had no trouble against the terrible Celtics defense, while their opponents looked more than slightly disjointed without their starting point guard. The Knicks were missing Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, but thanks to all the positivity running throug the franchise at the moment, and Phil Jackson getting hired might also have something to do with it, their absence wasn’t really felt.
The Knicks didn’t suddenly turn into the Spurs with rare ball movement and spacing. It’s simply about rhythm and confidence, and everything flows from that epicenter. Anthony got hot early with points through isolation. The Knicks followed suit and the Celtics, getting 27 points from Jeff Green, simply don’t have the firepower to compete with teams that get hot, even if they play “smarter”, “right” kind of basketball.
It’s now or never for the Knicks, who need to hope this momentum swing isn’t something that will last for only a few weeks. The chance of making this season into one that leaves a good taste in everyone’s mouths before heading into an interesting future with Phil Jackson in charge seems to be well within grasp. It won’t be about Mike Woodson making genius adjustments on both ends of the floor because that isn’t happening. It’s going to be about Anthony getting hot early, affecting his teammates and continuly getting the most of a lineup that’s finally getting quality minutes together, and making some regret no one tried it earlier in the season.