For the second game in a row, the Knicks moved the ball with stunning fluidity, scored, and aggressively attacked their opponent on both ends of the floor. The result was the same – another win.
This time, the victim was the Philadelphia 76ers who arrived at Madison Square Garden for an early matinee game, and generally meandered around the court, looking unfit to keep up with New York’s pugnacious charge. The early start didn’t affect the Knicks (maybe a thanks to turning the clocks back an hour) as they came out firing on all cylinders just like they did against Miami on Friday night.
Carmelo Anthony led the charge with 27 points, but he was not without help. Early in the game, Raymond Felton slithered into the paint with ease, setting up perimeter looks to Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, and Anthony, who swung the ball with ease and rapidity. The 76ers, just a step too slow most of the afternoon, granted Knicks open outside looks or open inside looks as they scrambled to keep up with the Knicks.
The second quarter was the turning point, defensively. After forcing just one turnover in the first quarter, the Knicks harassed the Sixers into seven more in the second quarter. Again, the Sixers looked lethargic as Knicks scrambled around, deflecting passes and dribbles and forcing some bad shots. A six-point lead going into the quarter ballooned to a 13-point lead, capped off by a steal from Anthony and a long outlet pass from Kidd to Anthony who finished a layup with just over a second remaining in the half.
The Knicks, however, were not perfect in their execution. Though they largely out-played the 76ers, some flaws still existed in the game. The Knicks relied heavily on the three-ball again today, and though 40.7% shooting from beyond the arc is a great number, it will not hold up; 27 attempts from that range is also too many. Typical of a new team, there were a fair number of miscues on some outrageous alley-oop attempts and on some play-calling.
On defense, the Knicks were stingy, holding the Sixers to just 84 points on 43% shooting (to the Knicks’ 50% shooting). The exception was point guard Jrue Holiday who continually took it to whichever Knick tried to stop him. Holiday dropped in 27 points on 5-6 shooting from three-point land. The Knicks may have been cut a break when Jason Richardson sprained his ankle on the first Sixers’ possession by stepping on a cameraman’s foot. (Side note: I completely agree with every commentator out there – the cameramen need to be moved further back from the action to avoid injury to themselves and players).
The second half saw action very similar to the game against Miami. The Sixers came out energized, reeling off 11 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter. From there, though, despite numerous attempts from Philadelphia, the Knicks were able to hold them off, thanks in particular to some hot shooting from J.R. Smith who really found the range, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the second half. Smith, the main catalyst in the second half, also contributed 9 rebounds as a symbol of his on-court activity.
Things got a little sloppy for the Knicks at the end, as the Sixers hung around within nine to twelve points in the waning minutes. Some premature chants for Rasheed Wallace erupted before the game was sealed, and Mike Woodson oddly obliged. However, the moves and the doubts of some fans proved to be inconsequential as the Knicks cruised down the stretch to a 16-point win to move to 2-0.
- Raymond Felton, after a hot start, was out-played by Jason Kidd through most of the game. Kidd was solid from beyond the arc (2-5),was the main contributor of the splendid ball-movement (6 assists), and played some crafty, old-man defense, swiping 3 steals and forcing the Sixers into some sloppy play with his hustle. After a poor preseason, Kidd is looking more and more valuable each day.
- Tyson Chandler, playing with flu-like symptoms, was pretty quiet in his 20 minutes. Due to Chandler’s condition, Kurt Thomas’s 18 hard-working minutes were appreciated.
- Perhaps the play of the game: Carmelo Anthony hustling back, to block Nick Young on a fastbreak layup attempt, then chasing down the ball, and diving into the third row of the stands in order to save it. Those types of plays will quickly win the fans over, and that type of hustle sets a precedent for the team. It’s early, but Anthony really looks like he gets it this year.
- Rasheed Wallace dropped a little baby hook in, grabbed two rebounds, made a foul shot, and dished to Pablo Prigioni on a lovely little give-and-go in his 3 minutes of playing time.
The Knicks travel to Philadelphia tomorrow to complete a home-and-home with the Sixers.
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