Another week, another four wins. This week saw the Knicks run through the Heat (without LeBron and Wade, 102-90), Atlanta (95-82), Milwaukee (101-83) and Oklahoma City (125-120). The victories brought the Knicks' record to 50-26. They've won fifty games for the first time since 1999-2000, are one game from clinching the Atlantic Division title (last won in 1993-94) and are firmly entrenched as the East's two-seed (2.5 games ahead of Indiana).
Carmelo Anthony is on fire, JR Smith continues to play the best basketball of his career, Tyson Chandler has recovered from his neck injury and Raymond Felton has his mojo back. With just six games left in the regular season, the Knicks are firing on all cylinders at the right time; turns out November wasn't their peak, April is. At least so far.
During the early 1990s, the New York Knicks owned spring in New York. Opening day didn't distract the way it would during the later part of the decade: the Yankees hadn't made the playoffs since 1982, the Mets since 1988. Every post-season, Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing and the rest of the bruising Knicks got the city's full attention as they built toward a trip to the Finals in 1993-94. Now, as the Mets and Yankees set off on what are expected to be tough seasons the Knicks are gearing up for what should be a deep playoff run and the Garden is sure to be the focus of rapt attention for as long as they stay alive.
What Went Right This Week: The carbon footprint generated by Carmelo Anthony's heat is a threat to the environment. Melo punished anyone foolish enough to try and defend him this week, averaging 41.8 points on 61% shooting. Against Miami, he was so hot he shot 18-26 without making -- or taking -- a single shot in the paint. Against Milwaukee and Oklahoma City (where he had nine offensive rebounds), he went to work on the interior as well, grabbing offensive rebounds and pump-fake fighting his way to putbacks wherever he could. Melo's week was so overwhelming that it gave him a hundredths of a point lead over Kevin Durant for the scoring title at 28.4 a game. No Knick has led the league in scoring since Bernard King in 1984-85.
The Knicks' win in OKC was their most impressive of the week: on the road against a full strength championship contender with something to play for. The Knicks shot the ball well en route to a 65-point first half, Anthony was brilliant, Jason Kidd was 4-6 from three and JR Smith made two huge shots down the stretch to put the game away. Smith, of course, missed a potential game-winner as time expired last time the Knicks played the Thunder. That's all forgotten now.
In Oklahoma City, the Knicks came out with a clear gameplan to stop Kevin Durant. Led initially by Iman Shumpert, they were more than happy to foul Durant to slow him down, "limiting" him to 27 points on 7-17 shooting (he was 13-15 from the line). Tripping up Durant allowed them to overcome a near triple-double from Russell Westbrook (37 points, eleven boards and seven assists) and get a signature win.
As important as any win, though, is the successful return of Tyson Chandler. Chandler returned from a three week absence in Miami and was a quiet 0-2 in 24 minutes. Against OKC he was 6-9 in 38 minutes, making his usual noise as he went. Sorry, Nick Collison's face.
Chandler's pick-and-roll partner-in-crime has regained his early-season form as well. Each week Raymond Felton's looked a little healthier and each week his play has improved. He put the Knicks in control against Atlanta, taking advantage of some confusion on the part of the Hawks to get three straight fourth quarter layups for himself. Against Oklahoma City, he had his floater game working on his way to sixteen points and eight assists.
All the Knicks' role players contributed this week, but Chris Copeland deserves special recognition. His thirteen-point, three-assist first half in Oklahoma City helped the Knicks build a twelve-point second quarter lead.
Oh, and the Knicks beat the buzzer for the third time in two weeks, this one to close an absurd 42-point third quarter in Milwakee. They have to be practicing this.
What Went Wrong This Week: Twelve wins in a row means not a lot of bumps in the road. Marcus Camby's plantar fasciitis acted back up and kept him out of action and Kenyon Martin sat out Friday and Sunday with a sore right knee. Martin's knee injury isn't thought to be serious and when he did play, he did his thing.
Some weeks are just good.
Knick of the Week: Carmelo Anthony, who scored 50, 40, 41 and 36 points in the Knicks' four games this week. Melo took a lot of shots, made over 60% of them, took over the lead in the NBA scoring race and carried the Knicks to four wins. Are you not entertained?
Anything Funny? Seriously, nothing. The Knicks were all business. How about something funny from a few years ago?
This is who we were. Everyone made fun of us. It is over now.
Up Next: The season ends with six games against opponents behind the Knicks in the standings: Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, Charlotte and Atlanta. They need one win (or a Nets loss) to clinch the Atlantic, which they should get when they host Washington tonight. Any combination of wins sufficient to hold on to the two seed in the East, some rest for their key players and a statement victory over likely second-round opponent Indiana at the Garden would make for a nice end to the season and line the Knicks up to capture the city's attention well into May.