Don’t bet against James Dolan. On the front end of a back-to-back and with a new starting lineup, the New York Knicks finally started strong, putting up 29 points in the first quarter on a flurry of three-pointers predicated on strong ball movement and hot shooting by Carmelo Anthony, new starter J.R. Smith, and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks used their strong offense to give them momentum in the second half where they built a double-digit lead.
Perhaps the Knicks started Metta World Peace’s birthday celebrations a little early at halftime, or dipped into J.R.’s personal stash, because they came out in the second half completely flat. ‘Melo went cold and reverted to “Bad Melo”, the offense devolved into iso-ball, and the Knicks squandered their entire 10-point halftime lead and then some.
Early in the 4th quarter the Knicks went down five points and it felt as though Atlanta was going to pull away. But the Knicks showed the kind of fourth quarter poise we got used to last year – Andrea Bargnani hit a couple threes, and Raymond Felton realized the Hawks were going under every screen and drained several mid-range jumpers allowing the Knicks to hold on for their third victory of the season.
As will continue to be the case without Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were out rebounded by 10. Somewhat more alarming: they shot just 13 free throws – four of them coming on late-game intentional fouls. The D wasn’t pretty, especially as point guard where Jeff Teague routinely blew by Felton, but in the end, the Knicks only gave up 91 points to a Hawks team that had scored 100 points every game this season.
Here’s a look at the individual performances:
Carmelo Anthony – 40 minutes, 25 points, 9-25 FG, 4-5 FT, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 TOs, -5
Anthony’s shot selection looks bad when he’s firing blanks like Wednesday night. He settled for a few too many contested jumpers, especially in the third quarter where the offense went stagnant. They were looks he normally hits and nobody questions when he does. Still, Anthony came up big at superstar time scoring six huge fourth quarter points, giving the Knicks a lead they never relinquished.
Final Grade: C
Andrea Bargnani – 31 minutes, 20 points, 8-15 FG, 2-2 FT, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 TO, +6
Perhaps the best game in his short Knick career. Bargnani rebounded, played decent (at times) defense, ran the floor in transition for a couple nifty layups, and even dove out-of-bounds saving the ball with a circus behind-the-back pass. I still have concerns with him at the five spot defensively, especially down the stretch of games, but for a night it was enough.
Final Grade: B+
Raymond Felton – 32 minutes, 10 points, 5-12 FG, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, +1
The rough start to Raymond Felton’s season continued. He got completely worked by Jeff Teague on defense and didn’t seem to have his usual quickness to the hoop that sets up penetration. Felton was noticeably limping at the end of the game, a symptom of his still-lingering hamstring injury.
Final Grade: D
J.R. Smith – 33 minutes, 12 points, 4-10 FG, 7 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 steal, -3
A good, under control J.R. was what we got tonight as the reigning sixth man of the year was inserted into the starting lineup for only his second time as a Knick. J.R. came out hot, hitting 3 first quarter threes on the quick, catch-and-shoot jumpers you like to see from him. After the first quarter, J.R. was relatively quiet, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
An underrated part of J.R.’s game is the rebounding he brings from the guard position, which is sorely needed with Tyson Chandler’s absence.
Final Grade: B
Iman Shumpert – 35 minutes, 5 points, 2-8 FG, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 block, 4 steals, +15
Shumpert led the Knicks in +/-, racking up 9 assists and being his usual pest on defense. If anything, I’d like to see him fire away from downtown more often when the ball finds him open, but that’s nitpicking on an excellent all-around game by Iman. Let’s see if this impacts those trade rumors.
Final Grade: B+
Kenyon Martin – 17 minutes, 2 points, 1-1 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, +2
Kenyon did Kenyon things, throwing Jeff Teague to the ground at one point, and generally trying his darndest to cover for the defensive sieves in front of him.
Final Grade: C+
Metta World Peace – 21 minutes, 4 points, 2-5 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, -4
Final Grade: C+
Tim Hardaway Jr. – 15 minutes, 14 points, 5-8 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, +3
Oh boy, does Timmy look like a player. He started off hot hitting two quick three pointers after checking in, and finished hot with back-to-back buckets to start the fourth including a sick alley-oop jam from Pablo Prigioni. The only time Hardaway Jr. wasn’t hot was when he was on the bench. The kid has to improve on defense, but looks like he could be a player in this league.
Final Grade: A-
Pablo Prigioni – 16 minutes, 3 points, 1-4 FG, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 2 steals, +9
Props to Pablo for being the only Knick guard to play competent defense on the opposing PGs. He generally went below every Atlanta screen which worked out quite well. I was happy to see Pablo fire away on threes whenever the Hawks did the same, although on this particular night those threes didn’t fall.
Final Grade: B-
Cole Aldrich – 1 minute, 0 points, 0-0 FG, -4
Nice to see ya, big guy!
Final Grade: Incomplete
Jeremy Lin returns to the Mecca on Thursday night as the Knicks face the Rockets. Rumor has it James Harden sat out in Philly on Wednesday to save himself for MSG/TNT. Hopefully the Knicks can start a winning streak tomorrow night.