The Knicks maintained a steady lead for three and half quarters until the Bobcats slowly came back from an eleven point deficit. In the fourth quarter though, New York managed to squeak out the victory for their third straight win.
Iman Shumpert* quickly solidified himself as the Garden’s fan favorite. He had the MSG crowd chanting “M-V-P” as he hit the foul line. A little overblown appreciation for the rookie, but his defense was spectacular with three steals and his shot selection was much improved (7-13 from the field, 16 points). The Knicks are 4-1 when he plays.
But when it mattered most, in the final minutes of the game, it wasn’t Shumpert who saved the Knicks, but Carmelo Anthony, who had been struggling throughout the night. Melo hit a pair of clutch free throws to seal the deal.
In fact, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire forced a few too many shots and combined for an inefficient 13 for 43 from the field (30.2%). The Knicks can credit the victory to Tyson Chandler who showed why he was paid $58 million over four years.
Chandler piled up the stat sheet with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, and zero turnovers. His presence on the court was just as boisterous as his line suggests.
One specific sequence in the second quarter highlighted how the Knicks played offense for the majority of the night: Shumpert stole the ball at one end and returned for it to the house for a slam. The next Bobcats possession, Landry Fields played excellent on-ball defense which led to a forced shot by the Bobcats and a Melo to Chandler alley oop on the other end.
Speaking of alley-oops, there were a lot of them tonight. That’s a good sign that the offense is clicking and going to come around soon enough.
Mike D’Antoni went nine deep, but the bench only manufactured three points of the Knicks’ 91. In other words, the starting five (Shumpert, Fields, Melo, Amar’e, Chandler) accounted for 96.7% of the team’s offensive production. If they want to compete against elite teams, they are going to need more than that.
Toney Douglas continued his erratic play. He looks nervous on the floor and needs to build some confidence. Mike Bibby ended his streak of seven consecutive threes; Josh Harrellson honed in six boards and two steals; Billy Walker got a chance to show his stuff but made no major contributions.
On defense, the Knicks constantly switched on pick and rolls which led to mismatches. Tonight, the Bobcats went out of their way to set screens and the Knicks always switched. It was lazy defense. Although the Knicks didn’t get burned tonight because of it, they are going to soon lead to the easy baskets for the opposition.
The Knicks still have a long way to go before they can think about contending in the Eastern Conference. Tonight, they got their first win at home. On Wednesday, the test will be against arguably the best team in the Atlantic Division in the Philadelphia Sixers. New York will look to continue their current three game winning streak.
*Injury notes: Iman Shumpert’s knee cramped up and Jared Jeffries is running + shooting and looks to be back by Saturday.