It wasn't easy, but the Knicks slipped past the Hawks on Thursday.
The scuffling New York Knicks brought their 2-4 record down to Philips Arena and faced the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. The Knicks put aside a forgettable third-quarter showing and fought off the Hawks down the stretch, heading home 95-91 victors.
Against Atlanta's new offensive scheme that evokes the efficiency of the San Antonio Spurs—courtesy of new coach and ex-Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer—the Knicks forced 15 turnovers including 11 steals. Mike Woodson had to be encouraged by his charges' defensive play late in the game against the team he formerly coached.
Carmelo Anthony led New York with 25 points, but Andrea Bargnani turned in a surprising double-double with 20 points and 11 boards. Tim Hardaway Jr. poured in 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, highlighted by an eyebrow-raising alley-oop. Iman Shumpert enjoyed a fine all-around showing on both ends of the floor.
In the first half, the Knicks got dominated in the paint 34-16 with Al Horford and Jeff Teague going to work. Thankfully, the three-pointers were falling as New York led by as many as 17 and got out to a 55-45 halftime lead. They knocked down 8-of-19 behind the arc while Atlanta went 1-of-11. J.R. Smith relished a rare start and dropped nine points in the first eight minutes.
But the Knicks fell flat in the third quarter and missed 19 of 21 shots during one notable stretch of ineptitude. Suddenly the 'Bockers had reverted to jacking up shots instead of exhibiting technically sound ball movement and ceded the lead to Atlanta.
They appeared resurrected in the fourth quarter behind some big buckets from Melo, Bargs and Raymond Felton, giving them just enough to overcome Atlanta. Here are complete grades and analysis for the entire Knicks rotation.
Correction: Felton does not actually have any bulldog DNA.
Raymond Felton could not find his touch for most of Wednesday night, which is part of a disturbing trend—Felton had shot just 37.5 percent through six games.
But when the boys in orange-and-blue needed him most, Felton shook off the cobwebs and came through with six points down the stretch in the fourth. Those crucial 130 seconds outpaced his scoring for the rest of the game (four points) and buoyed the Knicks offense just as Atlanta was beginning to thrive.
Felton finished with 10 points, five assists, a steal and a block. The Knicks hope he can build on that momentum against the high-powered offense of the Houston Rockets on Thursday.
'Oh snap, I'm starting?'
J.R. Smith made just his second start as a Knick and the first since March 9, 2012. He seized the opportunity and started strong against the Hawks. J.R. swished a trio of first-quarter threes and proved he can provide a spark on offense without spending the game's first four minutes on the bench.
Smith went quiet in the second half, scoring just three more points on just 1-of-5 shooting to finish with 12 points. To his credit, he also snagged five second-half rebounds and finished with seven boards on the evening.
It was a so-so showing for Smith as he seemed to vanish when the Knicks needs him most in a 10-point third quarter, but he still turned in a solid overall game. It's not his fault New York stopped moving the ball for much of the second half.
With trade rumors swirling, Shumpert looks pensive.
Iman Shumpert is just 23 years old and it must be hard for a young player to block out the cacophony of trade chatter involving himself and Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (via Marc Stein of ESPN.com).
Nevertheless, Shumpert took the court and flashed his potential as a point guard tallying seven first-half assists. He shot just 2-of-8 from the field overall, but he did everything else on the floor. He ended with a career-high nine assists, plus six rebounds, five points and four steals—yes, four steals!
Shump also played some timely defense by blocking a Kyle Korver three-pointer late in the fourth quarter. Korver is an assassin from downtown and is closing in on the NBA record for consecutive triples in a game. Maybe the Nuggets will consider accepting the trade for "Manimal" without any draft picks after all.
For what it's worth, I hope they don't make the trade. Although, Faried is from Newark which would make for a nice homecoming.
The train is on the tracks.
Carmelo Anthony had 15 points by halftime, but he trudged through a rough third quarter that saw him miss eight of nine shots, including getting stuffed twice. Anthony's shooting touch seemed to have deserted him as he was 7-of-21 entering the fourth quarter.
But when the Knicks needed to respond to Atlanta's jabs, Melo took charge and attacked the rim for a hard-nosed layup and then tied the game at 78 apiece on a three-ball. Those were Anthony's final points of the game, but he put them in place to grab a much-needed win on a night when he didn't have his best stuff.
Carmelo totaled 25 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. His 9-of-25 shooting is slightly unsightly, but it's much easier to digest after a win.
Anthony was averaging 40.3 minutes per game entering Wednesday and his play in fourth quarters generated some cause for concern. His little five-point run tied the game and Atlanta never grabbed the lead again.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Andrea Bargnani grabbed double-digit rebounds! The lengthy Italian dropped 20 points and snatched 11 boards in 31 minutes.
Bargnani showed excellent ability to run the floor, showcased on successive layups through the middle of the Hawks defense in the second quarter. Naturally, he got abused inside by Al Horford and saw Jeff Teague streak through a wide-open paint on several occasions, but he looked much more competent during his fourth-quarter minutes and helped preserved (and pad) the lead.
Bargs picked an excellent time to tickle the twine with his first trey of the game, putting the Knicks ahead by five points just inside of six minutes remaining. Then with under three minutes left, he downed another three-pointer, this time off the window. He definitely did not call "glass," but how could he with that enormous mouth guard he wears?
He had fans salivating with his 25 points, eight boards and five barged shots, I mean, blocked shots against the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 8, and Bargnani's production will be almost always fall short of that benchmark. On Wednesday however, Bargs turned in a potent performance against a pretty good Atlanta frontcourt.
When will the Hardaway Jr. trade rumors start? Just kidding...for now.
MSG showed Kenyon Martin barking at rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. in the first half, coaching him up after a defensive lapse. You could also call it scolding. The problem with Tyson Chandler's injury is that when K-Mart is not on the court, there is a vertiginous decline in New York's interior defense. It's not all Bargnani's fault, but he is a spectator on D more often than not, a phenomenon known as "Amar'e Stoudemire Syndrome."
Speaking of Hardaway the Younger, he got off to a hot start by canning three of his first four shots for 10 quick points. He turned on the juice again to start the fourth quarter and spurred the sputtering Knicks offense with four quick points. Those came on a driving layup and then a superb alley-oop from Pablo Prigioni.
After the offense stagnated in the third quarter and scored only four points, the rookie gave them a shot in the arm. It set the tone for the team in the final 12 minutes and they outmatched the Hawks for the win. That's the sort of performance befitting a first-round draft pick.
Metta World Peace was swooping and hooping in the first half, creating his own shot twice in limited minutes off the bench. Those were his only points in 21 minutes, and perhaps Mike Woodson is saving MWP for Thursday's game against the Houston Rockets.
Pablo Prigioni continues to get open looks from deep, and he nailed his first of the game. And it was beautiful. If he's open, he might as well take those triples since he entered the game 7-of-10 from downtown on the season. While he missed his next three attempts, he was due to regress to the mean, but the Knicks will sign up for something close to 40 percent three-point shooting from the Argentine every day of the week.
The Knicks face at tough test at Madison Square Garden on Thursday when Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets return to the birthplace of Linsanity. James Harden sat out Wednesday's game, and the 3-4 Knicks would be extremely lucky if he can't go at MSG.