We mentioned another misleading streak beginning yesterday. It seems it’s not over yet, as the New York Knicks came away with a 107-97 win over a direct rival for the final postseason spot, the Cleveland Cavaliers, after another impressive scoring performance by Carmelo Anthony and generally the offense-oriented lineup doing its job.
Mike Woodson stopped trying to outsmart anyone with weird, point guard heavy lineups and using players out of position. He simply uses his best five players, and for the third straight game it looks like the direction is the right one. The Knicks are enjoying the Hawks spiraling out of control, losing nine of their last 10 games, while the Knicks seem suddenly like the best and most playoff-ready team out of those still chasing that 8th spot, including the Pistons and the Cavs.
Amare Stoudemire continues to make the most of his minutes in the lineup, as if suddenly being a starting player has changed his confidence levels. He’s not playing like an All-Star all of a sudden, but getting 28 minutes is a huge improvement compared to the limitations he has been stuck in for most of this season, replying with 17 points and 12 rebounds, even if his defense is still embarassing to watch on some nights.
Anthony led the team scoring 26 points, although he did miss the first six shots, but he did finish with 10-of-23 from the field, adding 7 rebounds. J.R. Smith was once again a responsible player with 17 points, Tyson Chandler dominated in the paint with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Raymond Feltong didn’t do anything to mess things up.
So what is the magic that has turned the Knicks into a formidable team once again? Well, the opponents of Minnesota, Utah and now Cleveland suggest that this isn’t the formation of a new super team in the East. The Knicks are in a very comfortable spot of the schedule, but there’s more to this than just the weakness of their opponents.
The Knicks aren’t a smart basketball team, or one that plays with a defensive scheme that makes it difficult to score against. There’s offensive talent, and the rest is up to focus and effort. Looking at their season, it’s all been streaks – five wins, seven losses and so on. As Carmelo Anthony said after the game, it seems the gravity of the situation has dawned upon some players, and there’s a sense of urgency that simply wasn’t there a week ago, when Anthony was taking interviews with tears in his eyes and Woodson seemed to be on the verge of getting fired.
The Cavs might have been celebrating Ilgauskas getting his jersey retired, with LeBron James in attendance as well. However, just like the Knicks, this is a team that expected to be in a very different place at this point of the season, and all the points Kyrie Irving scores or the trade that got them Spencer Hawes which has improved the team aren’t going to help with this kind of disappointing basketball showing up on most nights.