It was an uninspiring win, but a win nonetheless. Up 12 at halftime, the Knicks, losers of four straight, were able to hold on at the end for a 99-93 win over the Sixers, who have now lost five straight games. The Knicks dominated the second quarter, but the two teams played evenly for the other three quarters. In the fourth, Jrue Holiday sunk a trio of three pointers to head a Philadelphia comeback. However, the Knicks were able to hold on, thanks to some big plays by JR Smith of all people. Smith buried three three pointers of his own in the final period, and grabbed a huge offensive rebound in the final minute that basically saved the game.
Side note: Raymond Felton hurt his foot during the game. In postgame interviews, he said he hurt his achilles, but should be fine.
Here are my notes from the game:
- I loved what we saw from Carmelo Anthony tonight. Early in the game, I thought he helped set a good tone for the Knick defense. Philadelphia attacked him early in post up and isolation situations and Anthony more than held his own. Unlike Friday in Toronto, Anthony was locked in on that end of the floor and really played a solid game. Offensively, I loved his attacking nature. Anthony was able to get to the free throw line 18 times tonight, hitting 16. Even with his plentiful number of free throw attempts, Anthony still shot 18 times from the field. Although he was just 6/18 shooting, I actually thought his shot selection was pretty good. 12 of his 18 shots were either at the rim or from three point range, which is what you’re looking for. He’s not going to be hot shooting the ball each game, but I really liked how he made up for it by getting to the rim so much.
- Tyson Chandler’s defense was great tonight. At first glance, I’d have to watch film to confirm, it looked like he was able to roam a bit more tonight with Philadelphia being so weak at center. Chandler seemed to be very active in help defense and blocked three shots. If we look at Philadelphia’s shot chart, we see that they got a ton of shots close to the basket, but didn’t necessarily hit on that many of them. I attribute most of that to Chandler having a dominant game.
- This was probably Amar’e Stoudemire’s best game of the season. He was passable on defense and was mightily efficient on offense, scoring a season high 22 points on 9/10 shooting. Stoudemire did a bit of everything offensively, putting back boards, posting and toasting and he even got a mid-range shot to go. I think this was probably the most complete offensive game we’ve seen this year from him. This was the second consecutive game we’ve seen him hit a mid-range shot. Not to say I want to see him take a bunch, but it is encouraging to think that he can hit that shot more times than not if he has to. We need to see more makes to get any sort of definitive conclusion, but it is good to see him getting those shots to go.
- Yeeeeeeeeesh, Jason Kidd. Not to a fault of his own, I think Mike Woodson has burned him out with too many minutes, Kidd looks really bad right now. I actually think he did some good things tonight in swinging the ball and rebounding, but his defense and shooting were, and have been as of late, really bad. A few times tonight, Kidd was completely hapless in staying in front of his man. He had numerous open shots, yet hit just 1/7 from downtown. This is not the same Kidd we all fell in love with earlier this season. So what is the solution? Personally, I would consider shutting him down for a few games. At the very least, Woodson has to start limiting his minutes. He sort of did that tonight, playing Kidd 26 minutes. I’d like to see that number come down to the 20-22 range on most nights. Sitting Kidd would mean more minutes for Shumpert and Prigioni, which would be a good thing. Shumpert obviously has struggled on offense, and did again tonight, but I think he’s got to start playing more than 10-15 minutes a night. He needs to build his confidence and at some point he’ll have to get comfortable in the offense. His defense has been solid as of late and I think eventually he will fit in offensively. Prigioni played well tonight and I’d like to see him get more playing time.
- The Knicks weren’t great on defense tonight, but they weren’t terrible either. Jrue Holiday scored 30 points on 12/24 shooting and Evan Turner scored 21, but Philadelphia was not very good on offense. They’re not a good three point shooting team anyways, but the Knicks did a good job of running them off the three point line and not letting them get hot. New York seemed to be funneling Philadelphia into taking shots closer to the rim, which worked out nicely when Chandler was in the game. When Chandler was not in the game, the Knick defense struggled to keep Philadelphia from scoring in the paint area. Stoudemire gave good effort, but he’s just not good enough a help defender to really anchor down that second unit defensively. In the 4th quarter, I’d have to look at the film to pinpoint the exact issues, but Holiday found himself wide open on more than one occasion which cannot happen. Holiday getting those open looks is what helped get Philadelphia get back into the game. The Sixers scored 26 points in the 4th, which isn’t what you’re looking for if you’re a Knicks fan. However, if they had cleaned up those few possessions where Holiday scored, that figure would’ve been lower and the final score wouldn’t have been so close. The Sixers aren’t a good team at all, but I thought the Knicks defense was solid enough to win tonight. They still have issues to clean up, but they were better tonight than they have been recently.
- Final bullet point goes to JR Smith tonight. Not only did Smith make huge offensive plays down the stretch, but he played great defense for the second consecutive game. I liked the way he was defending on the ball, something New York has sorely lacked this season, and he was solid in defending off the ball as well. Behind Chandler and Anthony, you could make the argument that Smith is the team’s third most valuable player, in that they rely on so much from him. He plays 35-40 minutes a night, handling the ball on occasion, shooting 10-15 times and he’s one of their best perimeter defenders. If the Knicks are going to get back on track, Smith has to continue to play well defensively and his offense has to pick up. Given how Smith is so inconsistent, I recognize his next eight games might be terrible, but I am encouraged by his play as of late.
Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino