By Max Marcilla
The Knicks won again, this time in Cleveland, despite a Cavalier team fighting for a win for Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ jersey retiring night. The Knicks outplayed the Cavs in almost every aspect.
Going with the “big” lineup of Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler (which has turned the season around for now), the Knicks dominated the glass early and throughout the game.
Despite shooting just 43% from the field, partially due to a horrid 0-6 start for Anthony and another rough night for rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., the offensive rebounding kept the Knicks in control. Stoudemire and Chandler combined for 11 offensive boards, and the Cavs were outrebounded by a staggering 12 rebounds.
The Knicks also moved the ball freely, as 26-of-38 Knick buckets were assisted on. It was reminiscent of 2012-13, when every member of the Knicks had faith in the next guy to knock down the shot. Everyone got involved in the assist game, as even the three worst passers on the Knicks (Anthony, Stoudemire, and Smith) combined for 11 dimes.
After the emotional halftime ceremony, which features the return of LeBron James to Cleveland, and the raising of the number 11 banner at the Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs came out rejuvenated, and took the lead for a brief time. Then, Anthony hit a three-ball to close the third quarter, and the Knicks didn’t look back.
In a dominant fourth quarter, which featured spectacular defense (holding Cleveland to 21 points) the defensive star was Iman Shumpert. In a game where Shumpert made his presence known on offense, with seven points on 3/8 shooting, his defense lead the Knicks to a win. The third-year pro played 31 minutes, and gave 100% effort and some nice steals defensively.
All of a sudden, inexplicably, after being defeated seven straight times, the Knicks have looked like a new team during a three-game winning streak. The main reason for that is defense.
In the seven-game losing streak, opponents averaged 112 points per game, while in the last three games, the opposing team is scoring just 95 points.
The defensive contributions have been from everyone, but Amar’e Stoudemire has especially stepped up on the “D” since being promoted to the starting lineup. In the past three games, the man they call STAT (an acronym for Standing Tall And Talented), has been a menace on offense, and a demon on defense. In those games, STAT has blocked six shots (an average of two a game) and in tonight’s game, he blocked three, the most shots he’s blocked in over a year.
The new starting lineup may not be the permanent answer, as we all know every one of the players in the lineup have major flaws, but when the Knicks were in urgent need for wins, they went with their top guns, their highest paid players, and they have delivered.
Currently, the Knicks are just four games out of the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference, held by the Atlanta Hawks, and the Hawks are playing tonight in Las Angeles against the Clippers. If L.A. wins the game, the Knicks will be just 3.5 games out, which is remarkable considering how atrocious the Knicks have played this season.