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A cynic might ask why the Knicks can’t play inspired all
the time, especially since they now have their own “Big Three.” But judging by
the electric scene last night during their 120-116 comeback win over the
cross-river rivals New Jersey Nets, all is forgiven and forgotten – for
Thanks to Carmelo Anthony’s torrid third quarter and timely
shots by his star cohorts, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups, the Knicks
[37-38] went from a lackluster first-half performance to an impressive second-half
effort, erasing a 16-point first-half deficit.
The Nets [23-51] came out strong, registering 36 points on
58 percent shooting in the first quarter and tallying a season-high 68
first-half points, but ran into a blue and orange buzzsaw to start the third.
New York’s epic third quarter was led by Anthony, who registered 20 of his
game-high 39 points, while the Knicks also held the Nets to 24 points in the
quarter. Stoudemire and Billups weren’t to be outdone, however, as they netted 23
and 33, respectively. It was Billups’s career-high as a Knick, as he added six
assists. Melo was once again a fourth-quarter killer, dropping seven points in
the fourth quarter, including a key baseline jumper with just over a minute
Offensively, the Knicks never had a problem getting their
shots, as they poured in 30 points in the opening quarter. They seemed to
forget they had to play both ends, however, as the Nets [24-50] scorched them in
that same span. Center Brook Lopez dominated whoever was in front of him, as he
had 16 of his 26 points in the opening quarter. Lopez, who’s about as worse a
rebounder as there is at the center position in the league, also chipped in
with six of his nine boards in the first half. The 7’1 Lopez came into the game
averaging a meek 5.9 caroms per game but like most big men, feasted on the soft
Knicks’ interior. Kris Humphries, a candidate for Most Improved Player,
continued his demonstrative ways on the glass with 11 of his game-high 14
rebounds in the first half.
The Knicks’ matador defense in the first half almost cost
them the game, as it seemed as if everyone in a Nets uni had a stellar night. Lightly-regarded
Anthony Morrow dropped in 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including four 3s,
while the banged-up Deron Williams, returning from a wrist injury, added 22, 8,
But the Knicks exerted tenacious defensive stops in the
second half and took care of the ball with precision to gut out the win. They dominated
the tempo in the second half and forced the Nets into erratic sequences down
the stretch and were more prudent in ball security, as they only committed five
turnovers. So efficient was ball security for the Knicks that they had a 27-minute
turnover-less stretch that lasted from the end of the first quarter to the 4:35
mark of the fourth quarter.
Life is easier when a team has a superstar to dig out his
team in a pinch but if the Knicks want to be taken seriously down the stretch
and also heading into the playoffs, they’ll need to take the lesser teams more
seriously and not get themselves in such a bind in the first place.
Thankfully for the Knicks, Melo rode to the
rescue – this time.