In the words of Amar’e Stoudemire, “How about those Knicks, huh?”
The New York Knicks continue their winning ways, beating closest rival Milwaukee Bucks, 89-90 at the Madison Square Garden Monday night.
The win came despite the absence of Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, who were both DND’s due to injuries. Lin sat out because of a sore right knee, while Stoudemire’s back is bothering again, although he cleared doubts that he will be great affected by the recurring injury.
Carmelo Anthony led the team with 28 points and 12 boards, while Baron Davis took over the guard position with 13 points and 7 assists. This is the first time that ‘Melo was the leading scorer in a win by New York under Woodson, signifying a big change in his playing and i New York’s system. Mike Dunleavy was the leading scorer for the Bucks with 26 points, while the expected stars Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh combined for a measly 10 points.
The win pushed New York a little further away from Milwaukee in the standings, further boosting their hold on spot number 8 in the East standings. The Bucks trail the Knicks by 2 1/2 games, still a close race to get the last slot in the playoff bid. Thus far, only the Chicago Bulls have clinched a playoff spot in the league, with 40 wins and 11 losses.
The Knicks have won 7 of their las 8 games since Woodson took over the coaching job from Mike D’Antoni.
Linsanity may have simmered down a bit. But the Knicks are just starting to sizzle again.
And hopefully, for the remainder of the season.
The New York Knicks have just earned their fourth straight win under interim coach Mike Woodson, beating the Toronto Raptors, 106-87 at the Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. Amar’e Stoudemire led the Knicks with 22 points and 12 boards, while Jeremy Lin also had double-double figure with 18 points and 10 assists. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler each chipped in 17 points for the Knicks, who are perfect in four games since Woodson took over as interim tactician.
So what happened to the Knicks since four games ago?
I did a researching on my own and I found out the following statistics:
– The Knicks have improved defensively, as far as allowing their opponents to score points is concerned. They have beaten their opponents by an average of 22.5 points, and have only allowed one team to score 100 in the last four games (against Indiana, 115-100). Amar’e Stoudemire has improved in getting rebounds, and Tyson Chandler has resumed his duties of shutting down opponents under the basket. They have also picked their opponents’ pockets 11 times a game in four games;
– Another defensive improvement they’ve made is in their rebounding. They have been averaging 44 rebounds per game in the last four games, an improvement of at least 5 boards on average compared to the 39 rebounds they averaged in the six losses they incurred prior to this four-game win streak. The only time they outrebounded a team that won over them was on their road game against Dallas, 51-46 (that’s because Dirk Nowitzki exploded from out of nowhere to carry Dallas behind his back for the win);
– The Knicks have been sharing the ball now (finally!). They have been averaging 24 assists per game, which might seem a normal stat. But a close look at the stats would reveal that that figure is shared by everybody, meaning on any given night, each Knick player that have stepped on the court to play has assisted the ball at least once in the minutes he logged in. There were only two nights where at most four players had no assists;
– Notice that in the last four games, Carmelo Anthony has not been the highest scoring player among the starters. If that means anything, well, the ball-hogging has finally stopped. Anthony has also upped his assist stats, meaning he has now allowed himself to be a channel rather than a container for the offense. What used to be a predictable offensive system has now been efficiently revamped into a deadlier one by improving ‘Melo’s part in the team’s ball rotation system;
– Lin has been turning the ball over lesser than average. He started out with six infractions in their game against Portland. Now, he’s only averaging 3 per game. There was a game he only had two. Either he’s improved ball handling, or that other point guards have been having better touches on the ball (Davis, Fields, Shumpert, et al), has been working just fine for them;
– To prove that Woodson’s system of isolation play was not really hinged on ‘Melo, he has reduced Anthony’s playing minutes by an average of 5 minutes per game. Since then, ‘Melo has had a fresher body when he steps on the court, making him still offensively potent, but defensively significant as well. Anthony may not be the center of the limelight anymore in the last four games, but believe it or not, that has been doing wonders for them. Still, ‘Melo can be explosive at times, especially when he’s at the receiving end of Jeremy Lin’s assists;
All these would be put to the test again, when the Knicks visit Philadelphia tomorrow night. This will be second road game for New York in five nights, and the second against a higher-echelon team.
And hopefully, the rise will continue on.
(Author’s preface: You might say the following post is a Sports post, which usually comes out on Friday. But while it is about sports, this post is more of an opinion on the on-going trade talks in the NBA, so this post still fits the genre for the day. Also, it’s just fitting that we can insert this topic as a filler for the missed count o our ‘Napag-uusapan Lang Naman’ series. So, I decided to squeeze in a ‘sports opinion’ post at number 14)
The smoke of All-Star Break has finally cleared out. The teams are back to their usual grind, including Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams.
But not in the same uniforms.
As of this writing, ‘Melo has just earned his first win as a New York Knick, while Deron Williams has yet to play with a “new jersey” with the Nets. These two blockbuster trades saw the exit of two All-Star players from the Western conference to the East (both were also gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing), and are expected to up the rankings of the teams they will now be a part of.
The Knicks are right now standing at spot number 6–not a very comfortable spot, especially if you’re dead last among .500 teams in the East. Philadelphia, Indiana and Charlotte can pull off a late-season run and upset the bottom half of the standings. With ‘Melo off to a good start in New York, things can turn out good for the Knicks and their faithfuls. After all, the last ten games of New York were not impressive with only five wins, and indeed they could use some help from an offensive powerhouse like Anthony (and Billups). But beginner’s luck will soon have to give way to team chemistry, and that’s where the true mettle of a team with two All-Star forwards in Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony will be tested.
Denver was able to keep their spirits up with a win over Memphis yesterday minus Carmelo and Chauncey in the roster. The Nuggets, like New York, are also at number six in the standings in the West. But that’s just it–being number six in the West spells more danger than being number six in the East. As of this writing, the Portland Trailblazers, the team trailing Denver, are just a game behind them. One loss could loosen Denver’s hold on their spot. A few more could drop them off the playoffs. And that’s a problem not far-fetched, now that they’ve got no ‘Melo to bail them out come crunchtime.
On the other hand, trading Deron Williams was an inevitable option for the Jazz, whose concern is more on the franchise’s long-term goals, than on the immediate target at hand, which is to get into the playoffs. The Jazz are right now at number 9, just two games behind Denver. Greg Miller gave a sensible rationale for the trade–D-Will’s contract ends by 2012, making him a free agent. For the past couple of weeks, no one from D-Will’s camp had assured the Jazz’s head office that he will be staying for an extension, or from going out. This non-committal from Williams prompted Miller to trade him for New Jersey’s Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, rather than end up with nothing should Deron opt to leave. The trade was the only option Utah can still get something (though Harris and Favors combined, compared to Deron, are of lesser value) out of losing their marquee player. Acquiring Deron by trading Harris and Favors gives New Jersey a better control of how their long term targets can be met, and with just enough cap space to throw in some chips for the next trade session next year.
I agree with Miller’s decision, only that losing D-Will right in the middle of the season will not do Utah any good in the standings. Some are saying Deron’s exit from Utah is the signal of Utah’s exit from the playoffs this season. This, we have yet to see.
For now, D-Will’s role is to help improve the Nets’ record for the season. By 2012, Williams will be taking a more central role in New Jersey.
From my own point of view, the choice of letting Deron go was better than letting Carmelo go. Here are the reasons why:
1. Deron will be going to a team with no other all-star player. That makes him the go-to guy, and a point guard at that. The team will be definitely building around him, giving the Nets a better direction to follow. On the other hand, Carmelo will be sharing the spotlight with Amar’e. Both are forwards, all-stars, and the “give-me-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way” type of players. Good thing Chauncey came along, to help dispel the imbalance that could occur when you’ve got two power forwards wanting each a fair share of their time on the floor.
2. Carmelo is moving from one playoff contender team to another. That in itself is a pressure–pressure from your new home crowd to deliver and make sure that you will carry them to the promised land. As for Deron, he moves to a team whose only goal right now is to have a good finish for the season. He can think of upping his game next season.
3. Since the prospect of entering the playoffs isn’t as big a deal as losing a marquee with no one to fill in the spot, Utah’s choice of trading Deron fits their franchise’s philosophy. On the other hand, Denver will be putting pressure immediately on Felton, Gallinari and Chandler the moment they wear their Denver jerseys because they will be taking on the default role of season savior for the Nuggets.
4. Lastly, Denver doesn’t have much options when the season closes by June. New Jersey, on the other hand, does. Being one of the last six, they can do a lot of maneuvering when Draft day comes, giving them a free hand on building on Williams.