I know these articles are generally called “game recaps”, but the fact of the matter is this was never much of a game after the first couple of minutes in the first quarter. Surprisingly, the Knicks game out of the gates ice cold, making only one of their first 13 shots to open the game and falling behind quickly 13-3, as the Kings were led by DeMarcus Cousins. However, New York ended the first quarter on a 22-9 run and never looked back from there.
The Kings were incredibly poor in the 2nd quarter, managing only 11 points. Furthermore, they were outscored 72-30 in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined, pretty much putting the nails in the coffin early in Madison Square Garden.
If anybody needed more reassurance that the proper place for Amar’e Stoudemire on the Knicks this year is as the first person to come off the bench, tonight was that night. The Knicks were completely out of control early in this game and desperately needed some burst of offense when the starters, all five of them, were out of sync early. That man was STAT, he immediately entered the game, buoyed the ship and made his first couple shots.
During a night in which Carmelo Anthony was uncharacteristically off from the floor, the Knicks definitely needed the scoring from Amar’e. Was it the difference in the game? Maybe not, considering how poorly the Kings played from start to finish. But, it proved that if things are out of funk for the Knicks, they have the ability to turn to Amar’e off the bench and right the ship. This will be one of the most important factors to watch the rest of the season as the Knicks continue to charge towards the playoffs. Amar’e Stoudemire’s ability to respond off the bench and create offense for himself while others struggle around him will be paramount. It will be equally as important as him finding a niche on the floor with Carmelo on an average night when ‘Melo is shooting better than 25%.
Speaking of ‘Melo, it’s a shame that his scoring streak had to snap tonight. But, I’d rather him have a poor game now, against a much inferior opponent while letting his teammates carry the load, then have another game against the Celtics or Heat. It’s the nature of the NBA season. Stars will have off nights. The important thing is to have the off nights against teams you can beat anyway. Like the Kings.
This was also the second straight game in which Tyson Chandler went absolutely bonkers inside. Back-to-back 20 rebound performances from the big man inside is massive. Remember, the two worst rebounding teams in the league are the Celtics and Heat. Chandler becomes exponentially more important when it’ll matter the most in the post-season, because his ability to dictate the play on both ends of the floor underneath could change the whole rhythm of a seven-game series.
As for the rest of the Knicks, I mean, everyone played well except for Carmelo and you could make the case that Jason Kidd struggled early on. But, Kidd was coming off an injury that forced him out of action earlier in the week. So, you can forgive him for being rusty. Always great to see Steve Novak break out the 3-pt belt with his five threes, J.R. Smith draining seven of his own while leading the Knicks with 25 points and the continued impressive play of Pablo Prigioni and his seven assists in 22 minutes.
Then there are the Kings. At this point, I really don’t know what to say. A buddy of mine, also a huge Knicks fan, asked a very important question tonight on Facebook: “Is this really the team Sacramento is fighting to keep? Is this really the team Seattle wants?”
The Kings are put together like a fantasy team. They have pieces every other team in the NBA would want, but none of those pieces makes sense together playing on the same roster. DeMarcus Cousins was really the only impressive player on the floor tonight, putting up a 25-point effort (no other King had more than 11, Thomas Robinson, who was also the only other player in double figures), nine rebound game. Cousins is a strange character, to say the least. He’d probably benefit the most out of any King to be on a different team, but he’s easily the best player Sacramento has to offer, and trading him would be a tough sell.
Tyreke Evans is in desperate need of new scenery. He’s in the same play O.J. Mayo was in Memphis. He just hasn’t found his niche in Sacramento, and he may never reach his potential if he spends more time in Sacramento/Seattle. He needs a new pair of eyes to evaluate his skills and find a better system. I still think he could be a All-Star level player, but he won’t realize that in the situation he’s currently in.
To summarize what we all saw tonight, the New York Knicks are very talented, and the Sacramento Kings are an absolute mess. Up next, the Knicks will get the Detroit Pistons on Monday, a team New York handled with ease in London the last time the two met. Knicks fans should continue to be encouraged by this team’s play.
Barring major injuries, this is a top three team in the Eastern Conference. Climbing higher than that and taking down the Miami Heat, well, that’s still to be determined.