By Tony Williams
The Knicks completed their five-game home stand unbeaten as they endured a glorified scrimmage for the second-consecutive game, this time in a 99-85 win over the hapless Pistons.
The Knicks (31-15) raced out to back-to-back 20-point halftime leads for the first time since the 1994-95 season, as they jumped out to that margin a mere 90 seconds into the second quarter.
Carmelo Anthony led the way with a game-high 27 points, while Tyson Chandler grabbed 20 rebounds for his third straight dominating performance on the glass.
As great a scorer as Anthony is, barely appearing to break a sweat as he closed in on his season average (28.5) by the time the fourth quarter began, the bigger storyline was how easily Chandler decimated the Pistons’ interior.
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“That’s what I expect from him for now on,” said Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson, half-joking that this should be the norm going forward. “He can’t tease me, [because] he’s now done it three-straight games. I’m expecting it a fourth-straight game now.”
It was his third straight game of collecting 20 boards, with five coming on offense. It was the sixth time a Knicks player has had 20-plus rebounds in three-consecutive games. The last player to do so was Willis Reed in December 1969. Chandler, who also added eight points on 4-of-9 shooting, had 11 of his caroms in the first half.
“Tyson has been great for us all year. He’s definitely deserving of an All-Star [nod], because he’s playing at that level,” said Raymond Felton. “Twenty rebounds, three games in a row, is very impressive.”
While Anthony is clearly the team’s top player, Chandler may actually be the most important. As Felton said, the 7-foot-1 anchor does so much for the team.
“We depend on him so much, even though for the most part all of us are expected to be inside the paint to help rebound,” said Felton. “But at the end of the day, we depend on [Chandler] to get those rebounds and he’s been doing a great job.”
Anthony was coming off Saturday’s performance in which he only had nine points in a blowout win over the Kings. But by the time the first quarter came to a close Monday night, he already had that total. He had 19 by halftime, as the Knicks led wire-to-wire in what ended up being a game that wasn’t anywhere near as close as the final score indicated.
“It always helps when you have your main scorer get off to such a fast start like Melo did tonight,” said Felton. “When he starts like that, he takes the fight out of teams. Even though they’re a team that we should beat, they’re still in the NBA and come to play and win.”
The Knicks’ reserves came to play as well, as Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith outplayed the Pistons’ entire bench. Stoudemire continued his torrid pace as the team’s newest Sixth Man of the Year candidate, tallying 20 points on an efficient 8-of-14 shooting. His summer’s work with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon has clearly paid off, as his post moves are as smooth as ever, which made the Pistons actually double team him on the blocks. Smith was equally good, notching 16 points, including five 3-pointers.
The Knicks as a whole shot 45.6 percent from the field, including 41.2 percent from behind the arc.
They’ll look to continue their trend of all-around excellence on Wednesday night in Washington against the suddenly ascending Wizards.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.