Is it just me, or is this the most ho-hum six-game winning streak ever? In a way I think that’s what excites me the most about it: the feeling that, unlike the winning streaks in November, this team isn’t growing into itself or coming together or overachieving – they’re just taking care of business. Ho-hum.
And that isn’t the only sign of the increased maturity of this group. Carmelo Anthony could’ve celebrated Amar’e Stoudemire’s absence by hoisting 25 shots; instead he took a fairly typical 18 and grabbed 14 rebounds. Overall the Knicks scored a rare double-digit victory in rebounding, 48-38.
And say what you will about Brook Lopez, but he worked really hard for both of those rebounds.
In my post yesterday I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing the role players in extended burn. It seems most of them were as excited as I was – after Carmelo helped the Knicks to a fat first-quarter lead, it was the role players who came in and put this baby to bed. Let’s go one by one through those battling for playoff PT and see if they earned any tonight:
Landry Fields: Minutes per game, month by month: 30, 35, 32, 35, 30, 28, 23. Call it the rookie wall or whatever you like, but Mike D’Antoni is obviously trying to keep Fields fresh for the playoffs. Tonight in just 22 minutes Fields had his first eight-rebound game since March 1st, and we saw some of the athleticism and hustle that seemed to have been missing for so long. There was the deft fast break and-1, the incredible block and save as he dove out of bounds, and a steal and save on a similar play in the third quarter. All great hustle plays, all the kind of thing that makes you feel Landry will be ready to run rampant on the Heat or Celtics.
Roger Mason: Made his return to action tonight after five straight games out of the rotation. I know there are people who like Mason – they like his veteran class and leadership, and they value the hard work he has. Unfortunately, if he isn’t shooting well – and last night, he didn’t – the Knicks just can’t afford to have him out there; he has nothing else to offer. In the playoffs, I don’t think they can take that risk.
Bill Walker: Pretty standard Bully effort tonight: a couple of threes and more than a couple of fouls. To me Walker’s playoff minutes rest largely on our first-round opponent. Against the Heat, I could see him coming in to check Wade for a few minutes, and obviously he matches up well if Wade isn’t on the court. But if the Knicks wind up with Boston, I don’t see anyone he can guard: he can’t chase Allen around screens, Jeff Green is too big, Delonte West is too fast, and Paul Pierce is a rip move and-1 waiting to happen.
Derrick Brown: Made both of his threes last night, which brings him to a total of 15 threes attempted for his career. He was a 43% three-point shooter in his final year at Xavier, however, averaging 2.5 attempts per game. He’s not exactly Shawne Williams yet, but I’m interested to see if he gets some cameos in the final three games. And speaking of…
Shawne Williams: What we have here is a 42% 3PT shooter. I think it’s important to step back and realize this guy isn’t burying treys at such an ungodly rate anymore, and so we have to judge him by the other things he does. Which are…what, again? His one-on-one and team defense isn’t any better than any of the other bigs, and he’s essentially useless on offense when he isn’t spotting up because he can’t put it on the floor. I’m just not sure he should be our second or even third guy off the bench. Feel free to disagree.
Shelden Williams: Started but logged just 12 minutes despite an 11-17 FG effort from Brook Lopez. To be fair, when you commit an offensive foul backing down Jordan Farmar, you probably need to sit the next couple plays out. As for his playoff PT, with neither the Celtics nor the Heat having a traditional back-to-the-basket center, I don’t see Shelden making more than the occasional cameo.
Anthony Carter: Nobody wanted Anthony Carter here less than I. I wanted him cut instead of Corey Brewer, and when that didn’t happen I wanted him packed up in moth balls and shipped into storage for eternity. And yet, against all odds, when he isn’t laying side-rim bricks and cranking out turnovers like a bakery, he does add something. So here’s my new question: of all the things Chauncey Billups brings that Toney Douglas supposedly doesn’t – the fabled and theoretical “veteran savvy,” “calming influence,” and “rugged” “battle-tested” “veteran grit”, – what of those is Carter not also bringing? It seems to me, minus Carter’s horrendous shooting, that Carter + Douglas is equal to or greater than Billups. Or it could be that I’m developing an irrational, childish hatred for Mr. Big Shot. One of the two, really.
Jared Jeffries: Made three shots last night, although I don’t think anyone is fooled by that anymore. For me Jeffries has been a disappointment defensively in his return, after being a real lynchpin for the team at times last year. Tonight was one of his better showings of the year; it’s that presence, not his shooting, that will obviously determine his playoff minutes.
Ronny Turiaf: If he’s healthy, he’ll play. Then again, looking back at this list of role players, you could probably say that about all these guys, right?