Knicks 107, Hornets 88
The New York Knicks continued their up-and-down ways featuring their new-look roster in a convincing and surprising 107-88 manhandling of the New Orleans Hornets.
Despite not having the services of Chauncey Billups, who was out with an injured quad, the Knicks’ offense didn’t skip a beat. Backup point guard Toney Douglas did damage in Billups’s place as he notched 24 points, four rebounds, and five assists, including 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter.
Although Billups is the ‘glue-guy’ of the team, keeping everyone in check, it was Douglas who stepped up his game. The second-year point said he got some keen advice from the sage vet prior to tip-off.
“I just told him to don’t worry about the Alpha Males [Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony] because I know that can be intimidating to a young guy,” Billups acknowledged prior to the game. “I told him it you call a play, run it with confidence.”
The Knicks as a whole exuded confidence as they shot 57 percent to start the game and finished shooting 54 percent. Stoudemire and Anthony balanced out Douglas’s brilliant start with nine and eight points, respectively, in the first quarter. Anthony finished with a quiet 22 points, while Stoudemire added 24. The two superstars even balanced out the shooting as they had 18 and 19 shots, respectively.
New York held on to a slight 27-25 lead to close the first quarter but that would be the last time it was a close game. New York raced out to a 9-0 run midway the second quarter and a 12-2 run to close out the third to put away a lackluster Hornets squad.
The Knicks surged ahead without their leader Billups but the Hornets might’ve been better had their leader, Chris Paul, no-showed as well because the perennial all-star point guard – and object of the Garden faithful’s affection – was a non-factor. Paul, who finished with a paltry four points on 2-of-7 shooting, was totally outshined by Douglas. Paul did manage 10 assists but he was nowhere near the explosive and intuitive point guard that many consider the best at his craft.
Although there were numerous “CP3 You’re Next” signs in the Garden crowd – as New York fans still flirt with the idea of adding him in 2012 -- maybe the Knicks already have their point guard position filled. When you consider the hot start to Billups’s Knicks tenure and the recent play of his understudy Douglas, it’s certainly plausible.
The Knicks [31-28] now take on the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday, but it’s no gimme anymore considering the Cavs have beaten them twice already. Head coach Mike D’Antoni admitted that the Knicks are still a “work in progress” and will have to gel on the fly, considering New York plays 18 games this month, including six sets of back-to-backs.
“There’s a process and guys are deferring too much, kind of like in an all-star game,” D’Antoni admitted prior to last night’s tip-off. “But that’ll come with experience of playing together. It’ll come together.”
WHAT WE SAW:
1. What we didn’t see was Chauncey Billups, who was scratched from the lineup due to a banged-up quad. Billups injured the thigh muscle in Tuesday night’s loss to the Orlando Magic when his left leg collided with Dwight Howard late in the contest. So, not only did Howard destroy the Knicks’ interior that night but he also ruined what was going to be a great matchup between Billups and Chris Paul. Surprisingly, without Billups, Paul still struggled, as he only posted four points and 10 assists. His first bucket didn’t come until a buzzer-beater at the half.
2. Paul was a surprising non-factor because of the play of Toney Douglas. The second-year point guard filled in for Billups and ran a superb offense. Douglas finished with 24 points four rebounds, and five assists and got off to a hot start that featured 4-of-4 shooting for 10 points in the first quarter. Douglas, who went 10-of-13 shooting, notched 12 points and three assists in the first half and totally shut down one of the game’s all-time greats at the position. If for one night, Douglas showed he can certainly handle the load as lead guard of the present and maybe future.
3. Carmelo Anthony continued his hot stretch as a new Knick, as he went for 22 points. Anthony, who came into the game averaging 27 points as a Knick, also added four rebounds and a handful of hustle plays and solid defense – to the delight of the Garden faithful. Anthony played perhaps his most inspired ball since donning the orange and blue and bounced back in a big way at home following Tuesday night’s collapse in Orlando. Anthony shared the wealth early as he and Amar’e Stoudemire meshed well, particularly in the first half when both had an equal amount of attempts in the first half, with 11. ‘Melo had 16 first-half points, while Stoudemire added 14 of his 24 points in that span. The margin was so lopsided that both superstars were done for the night by midway through the fourth quarter.
4. There was actual defensive intensity by the Knicks last night, following Tuesday’s game in Orlando, which was surprising considering it was the back-end of a back-to-back. The Knicks held the Hornets to a meager 88 points, including 46 percent from the field and 21 percent from three. Paul was bottled up all night, as he struggled with the attacking and aggressive Knicks’ defense. The Knicks also crashed the boards and manhandled the Hornets on the glass, 41-33.
CP3 FTL: Knicks roll
Knicks 107, Hornets 88