By Max Marcilla – Knickswag Contributor
Knicks 110 Raptors 84
The Knicks look like they are back in their groove as they win the second game of the back to back with Toronto. Similar to last night’s game, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin dominated, but what differed last night’s game from tonight is the fact that the Knicks played all the way through and never made the game close. Knicks dominate 110-84 in a 4th straight win.
After letting the Raptors tie the game halfway through the second quarter, the Knicks took control and never looked back.
Multiple things sparked this Knicks team, and one of which was the steals. Everyone from Iman Shumpert to Kenyon Martin showed their defensive skills by taking the ball away constantly from the Raptors, who just so happen to be 2nd in the NBA in fewest turnovers. New York ended up with 14 steals, led by Iman Shumpert with 4. This was a very positive sign, especially because this is only Shumpert’s 30th game of the season, due to his offseason ACL surgery.
Secondly, the Knicks run was sparked by Kenyon Martin, who led the Knicks in rebounding and on defense. At the end of the half Martin had a stretch that made MSG erupt. It started with a dunk from a beautiful pass from the now 40 year old Jason Kidd. With the crowd in frenzy, Martin ignited the Knicks defense by rejecting an attempted jumper by John Lucas. Just to top it off, Martin made a lay-up and drew a foul, completing the three-point play and giving the Knicks a 12-point lead at the half.
However, it wasn’t just Shumpert and Martin that led the Knicks defensively, but it was a team effort on defense. In the two game set against Toronto, the Knicks held them to an average of 89 PPG, 45% from the field and 27% from beyond the arc. Those numbers are staggering, which are the results of communication on defense and excellent switching, which is the philosophy of defense that Coach Mike Woodson has been preaching this year.
While the Knicks defense was relentless, their offense looked equally as good. One of the big questions that the media had was: Will the Knicks be able to move the ball with Carmelo Anthony in the line-up? Actually the result has surprised many, as the Knicks ball movement was even better with Melo. With a total of 20 assists and only 11 turnovers, the flow on offense was there, as the ball was moving resulting in many easy shots for a variety of players. The player I would like to single out is Pablo Prigioni. PP got his fourth straight start and recorded a team high 6 assists. Pablo’s ball movement is a result of his maturity and leadership on the court.
One last positive note, the Knicks have shot the ball exceptionally well since their 4 game losing streak on the west coast. Tonight featured the third straight game in which the Knicks shot over 50% from the field and there are a lot of players to give credit to. First, Kenyon Martin, once again Kenyon was dominant in the paint, as he shot a very efficient 7/11.
Carmelo Anthony has shot the ball extremely well since coming back from his knee injury. Melo shot 9/19 and has looked refreshed since getting his knee drained during the recent road trip.
Lastly, after a struggling start by J.R Smith, forcing up bad shots and having 3 early turnovers, Smith ended the game 9/16, this was a result of his scoring in the paint, which he has been accustom to in the past few games.
Overall, the month of March has had its ups and downs, but the Knicks defense has proved itself capable of great things. This month, the Knicks have held opponents to an average of 93 PPG, which is by far the lowest of any month. If the Knicks can carry over their defensive aggression, led by Martin, they can be dangerous and a tough team to face in the playoffs, especially at home.