Who knew that the combination of Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd might be enough to stop the losing streak the New York Knicks were on, doing just about enough at their advanced age to put the absence of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire off the headlines, just for once?
Our defense really shined tonight, especially in the second half. Everybody just seemed to make plays defensively when we needed to make stops. And then we made big shots when we had to have it. It’s going to be a nice ride home. We have been struggling out here on the road and to win at this altitude and this environment means we were hungry.
Despite losing four games on the road as their star players dropped like flies, the Knicks, 39-26, are still in the lead of the Atlantic division, hoping to get at least some of their stars back and healthy pretty soon. They had J.R. Smith leading them with 20 points, followed by Raymond Felton scoring 19. Still, a lot of compliments have to be directed at Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas (27 minutes), who lead the NBA in age along with Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace (probably not playing again this season), but gave the Knicks some vital moments on defense, shutting down the paint for the younger Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
Frankly, the Jazz don’t have a point guard, and it’s hard carrying on to win like that. Still, at home, where they’ve been so good all season, you expect a little bit more from a team that looked like a sure thing in the playoffs and has now fallen to ninth, sitting a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers, getting so little from their two big men, combining for 22 points and 8-22 from the field.
He hadn’t played 26 minutes maybe all year and we didn’t even know if he was going to play tonight. It was a total team effort but Kurt deserved the game ball tonight.
Maybe Woodson’s biggest change for the game was giving up trying to win in the paint, but option for a smaller lineup, with Prigioni starting next to Felton, while Copeland, Martin and Shumpert were the frontcourt guys. It did allow a quicker pace for the Knicks, who managed to make it without hitting 40% of their three point attempts.
When you look at this lineup, even with Anthony and Chandler and Amare playing in it, it’s hard to see the Knicks being as successful as their season start suggested. Eventually, too much of their ability to win games relies on players in their 40’s making plays and doing more than their bodies can do. Once or twice that might work, but not in a 7-game series, and not when Felton and J.R. Smith, those other than Anthony with the ability to create shots for themselves, aren’t the most reliable of offensive options.
For now, the Knicks simply focus on getting back their defensive identity which worked so well earlier this season, because we’ve seen them too many times falter and disappoint on offense in the last couple of months. Against the Utah Jazz, a team that seems lacking the kind of belief they need in order to leapfrog the Lakers back into the playoffs, it was enough for a win.