had a whirlwind week, playing four games in five nights: it started with a buzzer beater in Charlotte, peaked with a signature win in Miami and ended with a grind-it-out victory at home against the Nuggets, with a nothing-to-be-ashamed-of loss to the Bulls in Chicago mixed in. Considering they played Miami and Chicago without Carmelo Anthony, the week was nothing short of a success that generated a lot of momentum heading into round two with the Nets in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. The 3-1 week brought the Knicks record to 15-5, good for first place in the Eastern Conference.
The highest high came on Thursday night in South Beach, when they beat the Heat in a 112-92 shocker. Coming off a flat performance in Charlotte the night before that ended with a JR Smith buzzer beater for a 100-98 win, and playing a Heat team angry about a loss to the lowly Wizards two nights prior, it didn’t look like the Knicks had much of a chance against the defending champs. And that was before factoring in the absence of Carmelo thanks to the lacerated middle finger on his non-shooting hand that he got diving into the stands at the end of the Bobcats game.
But the Knicks, led by Raymond Felton’s get-on-my-back 27 points, showed up in Miami and put on a bombs-away performance, taking 44 threes and making eighteen of them on their way to beating Miami for the second time this season. Just as important as their three point shooting was the way they took care of the ball, committing just seven turnovers and limiting Miami’s devastating transition attack (although not completely).
From there, the Knicks were on to Chicago where they weren’t able to overcome a Bulls team that—though without Derek Rose—still plays some of the best defense in the league. Without Carmelo to worry about, the Bulls were able to hold the Knicks to 32% shooting in a 93-85 victory. The game showed the limitations of relying on Raymond Felton as a score first point guard as he again scored 27 points but shot just 9-30 and clearly faded late.
The Knicks ended the week Sunday night with a tough 112-106 win over a young Nuggets team that might have been the most impressive of all. Narrowly beating the Bobcats isn’t much of a feat. Presumably the Knicks might have gotten hot and caught the Heat on a bad night. But working hard and fighting through the fatigue that comes with playing three road games in four nights to beat back Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and the rest of the kids from Denver in a tight one to bring their home record to 8-0? That’s just fortitude.
It was the kind of prideful win really good teams find a way to get. That said, it certainly helped to have Melo back as he scored 34 points, including eleven points in the fourth quarter as the Knicks took control of the game. Jason Kidd played a key role too, as he's done all season, scoring seventeen points to go with seven assists as he played the point and not shooting guard for most of the fourth quarter.
Beyond Wins And Losses:
- Raymond Felton is from South Carolina and his family rolled out en masse for the game in Charlotte. It was literally an arena full of men, women and children who look just like Raymond Felton, complete with number two Knicks jerseys.
- Tyson Chandler had a great week, averaging 12.5 points and fourteen boards. Playing with Felton and Kidd, he looks more like the pick-and-roll alley-oop monster he was with Chris Paul in Charlotte every day.
- In addition to their 44 threes against the Heat, the Knicks took 41 threes against the Bobcats. They had some trouble with Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon in Charlotte (they combined for 42 points), showing why Iman Shumpert’s return from injury is so important.
- Apart from his game winner in Charlotte, JR Smith had another tough week as he shot poorly, nearly derailed the Knicks as they took control of the game in the second half against Miami and got killed by sharpshooting Marco Belinelli of the Bulls. The Bulls game should remind the Knicks that when Derrick Rose gets back, their old rivals from the Second City might get back to contender status.
- Marcus Camby didn’t play at all this week as he’s dealing with a foot injury and Rasheed Wallace sat out against the Nuggets with a sore foot of his own.
- With the Knicks up 97-92 and just over five minutes to go against Denver, Mike Woodson called timeout and drew up one awesome play. After taking a shot to the head against the Nuggets, Jason Kidd came out for halftime warmups with a helmet on. And we should all pledge to remember: although he didn’t get credit for it on the stat sheet, Steve Novak may have actually blocked a shot against the Nuggets!
: Things slow a bit but don’t get much easier as the Knicks travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets Tuesday night, followed by home clashes with the Lakers and Cavs.
You can follow Jonathan Fishner on Twitter @therealkingfish and check out his blog The Real King Fish.