New York Knicks Looking for Answers: 5 Positive Signs from Latest Win Streak

Michael Anthony@michael_pizzaContributor IJanuary 12, 2012

New York Knicks Looking for Answers: 5 Positive Signs from Latest Win Streak

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    The New York Knicks opened up the season on Christmas Day with a huge win over the Boston Celtics

    They followed that up with a big slide, losing four of their next five games. However, they have turned that around and reeled off four victories in a row. 

    This four-game win streak has produced two victories on the road and two at home and has provided some signs that show that the team is moving in the right direction. 

5. Team Support

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    The Knicks play in the World’s Most Famous Arena, but the support from fans at Madison Square Garden in the past several years has not been a good showing, outside of Spike Lee. 

    This season has been very different to say the least. 

    The Garden has been electric for home games for the Knicks, and their fans have re-emerged from hiding. 

    Although the Knicks lost two early home games against Toronto and Charlotte, they have returned to their winning ways at home by taking back-to-back games from Charlotte and Philadelphia

    These two victories have been a great sign for the Knicks who are trying to establish a home-court dominance this year.  

4. Bench Play

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    The Knicks do not have a deep bench by any means. However, they have had great bench play on this four-game win streak. 

    The first game signaled the emergence of Iman Shumpert as he played 37 minutes off the bench and would soon take the starting role from Toney Douglas.

    The next night, Mike Bibby came off the bench to score 16 points and hit four three-pointers. Against the Sixers, Josh Harrelson provided the offensive spark and scored 13 points. 

    In this shortened season, every NBA team will face back-to-back games and the dreaded three games in three-night stretch. An effective bench is going to be essential to the Knicks when they face multiple games in a short period of time. 

    Lucky for them, the bench is providing a big enough contribution right now to be successful. 

3. Iman Shumpert

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    When the Knicks drafted Iman Shumpert in the 2011 draft, there were mixed reactions from Knicks fans.

    Shumpert silenced his critics from the first minute that he stepped on the floor against the Celtics. He was an instant offensive sparkplug, that was until he injured his knee later in the game. 

    Shumpert missed four games early in the season, and the Knicks struggled to a 1-3 record in his absence. In the five games since his return, the Knicks are 4-1 and 3-0 since he has entered the starting lineup. The Knicks performance with and without him speaks for itself and shows how important he is to the team. 

    The starting point guard has definitely contributed with his point production but might need to work on distributing the ball better. He's averaging less than four assists per game, which is less than ideal for a starting point guard. 

    The bottom line is that the Knicks play better with Shumpert in the game and have been winning games with him in the starting lineup. 

2. Performance of Elite Players

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    Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were both given huge contracts to come to the Garden and turn around the Knicks franchise. Judging from the first 10 games of this season, the acquisitions were absolutely worth it. 

    Despite missing two games, Stoudemire has been incredible for the Knicks. He has averaged 21 points and nine rebounds in this early campaign while Anthony has averaged 26 points, six rebounds and four assists. 

    Without these two players, the Knicks would be in serious trouble. The 2011 midseason acquisition of Anthony yielded mixed results last season, but the two players are obviously developing more chemistry together and yielding better results. 

    Anthony has already been clutch down the stretch early on in this season. He single-handedly took over the game against Boston to pull out a win for the Knicks as he scored 20 points in the second half and clinched the game with a pair of late free throws. 

    In this four-game winning streak, Anthony has averaged 25 points per game. The Knicks haven’t had a consistent offensive threat like Anthony since Allan Houston.

    If Carmelo can keep this up, the Knicks can be a very dangerous team. 

1. Defense

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    This is the last thing that anyone is expecting out of a Mike D’Antoni team, but it's absolutely the most important reason for the Knicks four-game winning streak. 

    The Knicks have held opponents to less than 100 points in each game during their current win streak and held two teams to 80 points or less.

    The team is currently 18th in the league in scoring defense as they're allowing an average of 95 points per game. While this is not a great statistic, it's a drastic improvement from last year.

    In the 2010-2011 season, the Knicks were 27th in the league with an average of 105 points per game scored against them. 

    The defense has certainly improved since last year and absolutely has more room for improvement, but this is definitely a start.