The New York Knicks have known streaks this season—both of the woeful and inspiring variety—and they are about to snap out of their most worrisome skid with a hopeful string of victories.
The Knicks 119-114 loss to the Bucks on March 9 will mark a turning point; in hindsight, it will be seen as a watershed evening when some of the disparate parts of the Knicks' squad first began to gel in a cohesive unit.
There was, of course, plenty that went wrong in that game—especially at the defensive end of the floor. It is not surprising, then, that after a fourth straight loss, comment boards filled with a steady stream of panic-stricken and sometimes competing calls to fire coach Mike D'Antoni, trade Carmelo Anthony, run the offense through Carmelo Anthony like the pre-Linsanity days or to throw away both Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in a "Hail Mary" pass for Dwight Howard.
Here are three reasons the Knicks don't need to do any of that to regain their winning ways.
Mike D'Antoni's decision to play Baron Davis and Jeremy Lin on the floor at the same time creates a dreamy backcourt combination; if he sticks with this pattern for major minutes, the Knicks will cause some defensive fits for their opponents.
Lin's relatively loose handle has been exposed by aggressive double teams and traps that have caused him to cough up the ball in turnovers or to make early ineffectual passes without penetrating the defense.
Davis is much tougher with the ball and has the kind of veteran savvy needed to exploit high double-teams.
Davis can take a lot of the pressure off Lin in a half-court offense while deferring to Lin for fast-break action.
Lin can play well off the ball because he has found his shooting stroke again; he seems to be honing a particularly effective perimeter move: a single jab-step, one dribble stop and pop.
Because of the Davis-Lin combination, Lin was able to log over 40 minutes of action against the Bucks with enough reserves of energy to play evidently active defense on Brandon Jennings in the closing minutes of the game.
Baron Davis is steadily regaining his form; he hit a three and finished at the basket against the Bucks, an outside-inside combination that had been eluding him since his return. As Davis continues to recover from his injury, adding shooting and driving to his already formidable passing, the Knicks are not only going to win games, they are going to steamroll some teams.
If D'Antoni sticks with this pairing for major minutes, and even through some awkward stretches, the Knicks will be able to invite opposing defenses to pick their poison knowing a double-team is going to leave a number of scoring threats open on the floor.
If the outbreak of Linsanity was surprising, the fact that the Knicks have even managed to stay in a game without their MVP Tyson Chandler is astounding; check that, Chandler is the Knicks MIP: Most Indispensable Player.
When the Knicks are without Chandler, stadiums might as well fill with crowds of bull-fighting enthusiasts who can yell "Ole!" on every blow-by; cellphone companies could sponsor that woeful Knick defense because opponents can dial up threes knowing the Knicks will rarely interrupt anything from distance.
How you might ask does Chandler contribute to both inside and perimeter D? Guards can close out harder on the perimeter when they know that they have a shot-blocking and shot-altering presence inside.
While he does not possess the kind of shot-blocking prowess of Chandler, Jared Jeffries will give up his body quicker than a contestant on The Bachelor. Jeffries's willingness and ability to draw charges gives opponents a moment of pause when slashing to the hoop.
It's true that the Knicks have lost games recently with both Chandler and Jeffries in the lineup, but the Knicks were not gelling offensively in those games; their recent signs of cohesion on the offensive end signal that the Knicks will be wreaking some full-court havoc once Jeffries and Chandler return.
I have dived into the scrum in an attempt to break up the melee between Jeremy Lin enthusiasts and Carmelo Anthony fans. Since the end of Linsanity coincided with the return of Carmelo Anthony, a lot of people assume that these two scorers cannot coexist successfully.
Against the Bucks, Lin was lighting up the assist board early with many of those dishes served to a scoring-hungry Anthony.
Anthony can shoot, drive and even (I know I'm going out on a limb here), play some hard-nosed defense. Revisit the latter portion of the game against the Bucks to see at least a couple of series when Anthony dug in on denial defense.
Anthony is a well-established superstar whose go-to clutch will drive fourth-quarter victories for the Knicks.
If Anthony can stay engaged mentally, even when his shot is not falling, or when Lin and Stoudemire are grooving with the pick-and-roll, then he will continue to be a crucial piece for the New York Knicks—and hopefully not a trading piece.