Considering the way the Knicks played the last time they were at the Garden, they needed a tonic— however distasteful it might’ve been. Thankfully for them, they managed to hold on to a tense 83-78 win.
The Knicks (6-15) won just their third game at the Garden this season, but following their 41-point demolition at the hands of the Celtics the last time, any kind of win would’ve done.
“We desperately needed the win. Any win is a good win,” said head coach Mike Woodson. “Right now, we’re struggling to win games, so any game we win is important because it keeps us in the hunt. … No one is running away with [the Atlantic Division], so sure it’s a good win. But we gotta step it up soon because eventually somebody is going to catch fire and pull away from the pack. Hopefully it’s the New York Knicks.”
New York was led by Carmelo Anthony, who had a game-high 30 points— 15 in the first half — while Amar’e Stoudemire added 14 points in 30 minutes of action.
“This is the longest I’ve been able to play [Stoudemire] and he’s really been good the last two nights. He’s come a long way since the restricted minutes and not playing him back-to-back, and we’re starting to benefit from that,” Woodson said. “It means a lot to have that [veteran experience in tough times]. STAT has been in enough big games in his career and I thought he defended well, too. It’s going to be important that he continues to grow and not have any setbacks.”
There were very few setbacks on the defensive end for the Knicks, as it was arguably their best defensive performance of the season. New York held Chicago to just 33.3 percent shooting, including 28.6 percent from behind the arc. Franchise point guard Derrick Rose didn’t play and is likely out for the season, and fellow starters Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler also didn’t dress, but with the way the Knicks have underperformed on the defensive end this season, they’ll take this performance.
“It was great to get this win. It was a desperation game,” said Stoudemire. “We knew we did a great job of building that lead in the second quarter, so we had great confidence in knowing we could win the ball game. Even when Chicago fought back, we maintained our composure and withstand their fight.”
The Knicks came out swinging in the second quarter, as they held the Bulls (8-12) to just 15 points — on the strength of a 19-0 run — and led by as many as 23 points. But those efforts were almost for naught, as the Knicks endured poor shooting in the final stanza (4-of-19), as well as ball-movement killing isolation sets. Chicago went on an 18-2 run to make it a very tense contest.
Woodson said they’ll work on better ball movement.
“A couple of [Anthony isolation plays] were called, because we didn’t get any movement on the back side since they were just sitting on [the wings] and packing the paint. But I wanted the ball in his hand, because Melo is Melo and I feel good about his shot,” Woodson said. “But, we do have to get others involved.”
The Bulls (8-12) were led by Carlos Boozer’s 12 points and 12 rebounds, and 20 points from Mike Dunleavy Jr., but they received little help from their supporting cast on the offensive end.
Knicks notes …
»Iman Shumpert suffered a bruised left knee early in the third quarter and never returned. That knee, by the way, is Shumpert’s surgically-repaired limb.
» Raymond Felton did not dress, as he’s nursing a pulled left hamstring. Pablo Prigioni got the start over fellow backup point guard Beno Udrih due to his tenacious defense. Udrih is the far more skilled playmaker and scorer, so Woodson decided to use him off the bench. Woodson also noted that Felton could shut it down for a few games to nurse the injury.
» The Bulls were held to just 28.9 percent shooting in the first half.
» Kenyon Martin got the start at power forward and paid immediate dividends by recording seven rebounds and four blocks (three on one possession).
» The Knicks had 16 steals, led by Prigioni’s four. Anthony added three.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.