The New York Knicks are making the most of a very soft spot in their schedule, this time having no trouble beating the Milwaukee Bucks 115-94, inching a bit closer towards the playoffs with a very good game from Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Things will get tougher from here on out, including a Western tour and a very difficult April against playoff teams all the way. The Knicks haven’t really beaten anyone too impressive during this win streak: Timberwolves, Jazz, Cavs, 76ers, Celtics and Bucks. Still, all six wins have come by a margin of 10 points or more, something New York fans haven’t seen since 1969, when the Knicks were a championship caliber team. They’re averaging 115 points per game in the streak while shooting 51% from the field, but it’s worth mentioning that their opponents have a combined winning percentage of 33.4%.
That’s going to change, but based on the theory that the Knicks are more talented than the first four months of the season showed, this is going to be momentum they take advantage of once the harder games begin. The Knicks are now 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks, and there’s no other or better time to make up for lost ground.
Anthony led the team with 23 points, with the Knicks leading by 22 points going into the final quarter, getting a chance to give their starters some rest. Anthony was the only one who played more than 27 minutes, but it might be that these easy games now will help him avoid his fourth quarter issue this season, with fatigue supposedly grabbing a hold of him after having to do too much in the earlier stages of the game.
The offense-first approach from Woodson continues to prove itself, especially against such a terrible set of defenses the Knicks are seeing, and the Bucks, a team with very few players we’ll see on the team next season, are no different. The Knicks shot 55.3% from the field with 40% from beyond the arc. Tim Hardaway scored 20 points off the bench as the Knicks found themselves getting open shots time and time again, not having to go inside or dominate in transition to open up the lead. Simply put an effort on defense and play simple but smart enough offense.
Stoudemire scored 15 points to go with his 6 rebounds. J.R. Smith had a great performance with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, while Iman Shumpert added 14 off the bench. Every necessary offensive weapon for the Knicks fired without even a slight problem this time.
Maybe it’s the Phil Jackson effect. No hope about this season or the next one and suddenly a chance. Not just in Woodson’s lineup, but also in the way the Knicks are playing and approaching the final month of the season. Optimism, fun to watch basketball (relatively to before) and most importantly, hope that the playoffs aren’t out of reach, although a high draft pick might be the only way for this team to add a meaningful player to the squad next season. Still, in sake of giving Anthony some sort of a reason to stay, making the playoffs, along with the hiring of Jackson, might be enough to convince him to stay.