With their winning streak ending and confidence probably slightly hurt, the New York Knicks needed a terrible defense to make Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith feel good about their selfish way of playing basketball again, and luckily enough, the right team came along to do the trick.
The Knicks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-91, as both Anthony and Smith finished with 31 points, as the Knicks continue to play the kind of basketball you feel won’t be enough to get them through the East because eventually it’s too predictable, and relies on Carmelo Anthony to continue and hit more than 50% of his shots. As he continues to take about 30% of his teams field goal attempts (averaging 27.2 field goal attempts over the last five games), you just don’t see it happening.
Smith, the top candidate to win sixth player of the year, had a nearly flawless shooting night with 13-16 from the field, makes it possible for Anthony to get some minutes to rest on the bench with his very reliable scoring over the last month, something Anthony is very appreciative of.
J.R. was spectacular. I needed him to do that. He gave me a chance to sit down.
But when the playoffs begin, in which the Knicks are mostly likely to end up with the second seed in the East (three games ahead of the Indiana Pacers, three games left to play for both teams), it’s hard to see them carrying on to unprecedented success with this system working like this – an OK’ish defense with ball movement depending on Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton to find open men on the three (Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert), while Anthony and Smith continue to be last stops to every ball that comes their way.
At least Anthony isn’t slowing down when it comes to the scoring title, now holding a 0.6 point lead over Kevin Durant which looks like it’ll be almost impossible to erase. For those of you who are non-believers about Anthony’s ability to lead a team to an NBA title, at least not the group he’s leading now, seeing him walk away with the first individual award of his career is consolation enough.