With Tyson Chandler, Pablo Prigioni, Metta World Peace, and Beno Udrih out for health reasons, and J.R. Smith out for disciplinary reasons, the New York Knicks beat the Miami Heat for the fourth time in five regular-season meetings.
The Knicks were once again were led in scoring by Carmelo Anthony. Anthony poured in 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds; he showed great court presence and patience and continued to look for his teammates. The Knicks slowly are getting their swagger back, especially Raymond Felton who notched a double-double with 13 points and 14 assists to help lead the Knicks over the two-time defending NBA champion, 102-92, at Madison Square Garden.
When interviewed Anthony stated, ” We’re moving forward, we’re taking strides. We’re getting better. We’re learning from our mistakes we’ve made in the past and we’re going to continue to build on this and see what happens.”
This team came to camp cocky after winning 54 games last season. They came in and expected to just continue where they finished off last season . This was not the case. From preseason, this team was sloppy, out of shape and and undisciplined. Only Anthony came to camp in top shape, in mid season form. Playing in New York, “the Mecca of basketball” can do that to a player, they begin to read their old clippings and forget their job is to create new ones.
This team came to camp with the arrogance of a championship team, forgetting they were eliminated from Indiana in the second round. Many did not come to camp hungry and angry that they played poorly against Indiana. An Indiana team they could have beat. Felton was one of those players who came to camp not fully prepared for his role as the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. His injuries may have stemmed by being out of shape and playing too many early season minutes with the rigors of the NBA. Since his return he has come back with a hunger, an intensity that has helped lead the Knicks the last two games. He realized if he didn’t step up, he was out of New York. Since returning from his groin injury, he has looked thinner, faster, which he displayed for three quarters Tuesday against Detroit. Since retuning, Felton is averaging 12.5 points and 10 assists in two games. Maybe now he will continue to play with heart, desire and intensity, which will be needed for the Knicks to succeed in the East.
Woodson must learn his players and as stated when he took the job, make them accountable. He has not done this until last night, when he finally benched J.R. Smith in the wake of the shoelace incident for which he was fined $50,000 by the NBA. Smith needs to grow up and forget what he did last year. Last year he was upset he was not chosen for the All-Star team. This year, he will not even be considered. Like Felton, Smith has not played up to his potential. Woodson did finally what he needed to do with Smith. Maybe the benching will be a wake up call and be good for him. Last night, Smith often stood far away from the huddle during timeouts, but his teammates sure didn’t miss him on the court.
The Knicks have looked for a second scorer all season to compliment Anthony. Woodson and New York reporters have never been fair to Andrea Bargnani who played an excellent game again last night. Bargnani added 19 points for the Knicks and Amar’e Stoudemire chipped in with 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. With Chandler out, the Knicks out-rebounded the Heat, 43-32. Bargnani played 42 minutes. These two players made for a strong front court presence which opened the court for their 3 point shooters. The Knicks made eight of their last 14 3-pointers, after starting 1-for-10.
The Knicks used a 16-2 run bridging the third and fourth periods to go ahead 82-71 after trailing 69-66. After the Heat cut it to 93-84, Felton cut to the basket for a layup and Anthony then hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 98-86. The Knicks outscored the heat, 59-44, in the second half.
New York ran off seven in a row to open the fourth, making it 82-71 on Stoudemire’s basket, and there was never really a run for the Heat, who couldn’t get closer than five from there.
“They played a great game,” James said. “They made some timely shots.”
The play of Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire was the difference last night. When given the minutes these two players add a front court scoring tandem to complement Anthony that will be difficult for any team to stop. Woodson has not favored these players and often has played them out of necessity. If they can stay healthy, they could change the dynamics of this team. Stoudemire may have only scored 14 points, but shot 7 for 12, and led both teams with 11 rebounds in only 29 minutes. He also led both teams in the plus, minus category, he was a plus 19.
After the game Woodson said, “STAT was great. This is probably the first time we played STAT down the stretch of a basketball game…I thought he was very, very positive for us.” When asked about Smith: “Not gonna comment on J.R., just talk about the game.”
Iman Shumpert had another solid game on both ends of the court. Shumpert shot 4 of 8, but 4 of 7 from the three point line for 12 points. Couple this with 9 rebounds which tied Chris Bosh as the second most rebounds of any player on either team. He was a second leading plus 14.
Stoudemire, Bargnani, Shumpert, seem to play to their potential when given the minutes. Three players Woodson must learn to respect and appreciate. The common denominator of these three men is they are all team guys, team players. They allow Anthony to not only be the star he wants, needs to be, they compliment him and his game.
This is a Knick team with potential, a team with many talented facets. It is Woodson’s job to coach to his potential. To play and reward the players playing good, playing hard. The benching of Smith was long overdue. The team rewarded Woodson with their biggest win of the year.
Dr. Eric Kaplan is a Bestselling Author www.5.minutemotivator.com
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