In case you live under a rock, The Knicks beat the Heat Friday night in epic fashion. ‘Melo had a typical superstar night, scoring 16 points in the first quarter, and helping to lead the team to a blow out victory. As good as ‘Melo was though, the bench was key to last night’s stellar win, and they will continue to play a instrumental role in the team’s success.
The loaded bench consists mainly of J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Pablo Prigioni, Kurt Thomas, and eventually Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace. The first thing that should pop out at you is the amount of 3-point shooting. The second unit went 8 of 13 from behind the arc, and helped to share the ball dishing out 10 of the teams 27 assists.
People talk a lot about ‘Melo, STAT, Tyson, and even Shumpert when it comes to what needs to happen in order for the Knicks to go far in the playoffs, but I think that the golden oldies on the bench are the ones who will take them there.
Smith is the sixth man we love to hate. “He can shoot you into a game and he can shoot you out of one,” are the famous words attributed to Smith, but what Woodson gets out of him defensively, and his 3-point shooting will help this team much more than it hurts. He plays an even more important role when STAT is not in the lineup, because some nights he will need to be the second scoring option.
Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, and Rasheed Wallace are all enforcers who can hit the open jumper and defend with the best of them. It clear that these 3 guys are no longer in their prime, but Woodson isn’t asking them for much. None of them will ever play more than 20 minutes, and they won’t be relied on for much scoring. If they simply rebound and defend, then these players have done their part.
Pablo Prigioni and Jason Kidd (when he returns to the bench, that is) play possibly the biggest role on the bench, because they were brought in to fix the largest weakness of the team last year. Mike Bibby and Baron Davis (as much as I love B-diddy) are not starting on a team that thinks they are contenders, nor should they play significant minutes. Jason Kidd, even at his advanced age, is one of the most reliable and smart point guards in the league. Pablo Prigioni has been impressive in his rookie season, and played his way into minutes through his defense and pick-and-roll savvy.
This bench is much more than meets the eye, and if they can stay healthy then they are the biggest x-factor for this team. Teams like the Charlotte Bobcats are begging to have a starting line up that would include some of these players. The bench scored 43 points against the Miami Heat, and if they can do that against one of the league’s best defensives, then what could they do against teams like the Nets?