Last night, your New York Knickerbockers defeated Raymond Felton’s former team, the Charlotte Bobcats, 110-107, giving us a four-game winning streak and more. It moved us into sole possession of the seventh seed in the East (with a full game lead over the eighth and just one behind being tied for fifth). It left us just one game below .500. And should we win tonight’s rematch against the Bobcats, we would have our longest winning streak in nearly five years. Perhaps even more important, taking the rematch would also give us the season series against the Cats since we only play them three times. Since they’re one of the teams who we’ll be fighting for the final playoff spots, that tie-breaker could end up being crucial. But before we jump ahead to thoughts of April, let’s stay in November for a moment and discuss last night’s ART (The Awful, The Remarkable and The Terrific).
-Timofey Mozgov still looks pretty useless out there, usually causing more bad than good.
-When Amar’e Stoudemire gets in foul trouble, good God, the man becomes even more invisible on defense. In general, I wish we had a no layup rule, but even without that, we often put up some resistance on most plays. When Stat’s in foul trouble, a player can drive at him and I swear I almost hear him squeal as though he spotted a mouse and run out of the way.
-Amar’e seven turns and Felton’s four giveaways.
-Wanting to show his former team a little something-something, Felton pushed a bunch (as many players do in such a situation), which not only resulted in those four turnovers, but also a poor shooting night, going 5-of-13 or 38% from the field, and just one of five from deep.
-When the Bobcats got back into the game in the fourth, yes, they went on a scoring run, but I think more importantly the cause is what I’d mentioned during the Knicks’ six game losing streak: our offense tightened up and ground to a halt in the fourth. Considering we scored from 28-31 points in each of the first three quarters, only getting 21 was a serious slow-down. I mean if we’d averaged that for the whole game, we’re talking we’d only have netted 84 points.
The Remarkable (or should this more appropriately be Things To Remark On?)
-Nicely, Anthony Randolph and Roger Mason Jr. remained planted on the bench, keeping our rotation pretty tight (although as mentioned, I’m not sure Moz should even be getting the ten minutes he got).
-Felton still got nine assists. In general, even if he’s missing shots, when he’s out there the team looks far better than when he’s not. That’s not always the case with Amar’e. Sometimes we look better when Stat’s sitting. Even on those rare moments where we go on a role with Felty on the bench, it’s usually ‘cuz our shooters are just unconscious from deep rather than that the ball is moving well.
-Gallo had another off shooting night, but again he didn’t have that be the sole thing to make or break his evening. He got to the line, like he’s been doing regularly, going 8-for-8, resulting in him still putting up 17.
-Bill Walker in his ten minutes was 2-for-3 from the field and 1-for-1 from deep, again perfectly filling the role of spot shooter off the bench.
-Ronny Turiaf kept his fouls to just four and thus was able to put in 31 minutes. We clearly need his energy and shot-blocking. As I mentioned before he ever played a game for us, he not only is becoming a fan-favorite, but he also often overpasses when he has an easy shot. But I’m willing to overlook the last quality as long as he keeps bringing the rest.
-Toney Douglas went 8-for-12 overall and 5-of-7 from three-point range, notching a team high 22 points. After his two great early games, his shot disappeared. Eventually it was revealed that he had back problems. Was that truly the only problem and now we can count on him to remain a solid marksman the rest of the way? I’m not convinced yet. But I want to be.
-Amar’e had three blocks, coming out strong and helping create a defensive presence around the hoop for us.
-Charlotte’s a notoriously slow-paced half-court team, but we completely controlled the tempo, making it our kind of fast-paced high-scoring game.
-We’ve often talked about Landry Fields being our glue guy in the manner of a Shane Battier/Bruce Bowen/Kurt Thomas-type who does all the little things, but the truth is that’s almost a disservice to him. He also provides a ton of hustle, so last night in just 26 minutes he grabbed a tied-for-team-high 7 rebounds. Okay, some glue guys like Anderson Varejao are known for their hustle and boarding ability, but usually your swingmen types aren’t known for that. Also, unlike your typical glue-sters, he’s capable of much more acrobatic/athletic feats, which includes his scoring ability. Truth is that usually when we refer to a glue guy, the unmentioned implication is that the dude actually doesn’t have much athleticism but he uses it to the best of his ability. Fields was on the receiving end of a nice alley-oop and almost every other game he seems to have a play where he swoops in for an offensive rebound and slams it home. Last night when the Bobcats had cut the lead to two in the fourth, it was Landry who did the dirty laundry, scoring the next six when everyone else (both players and fans) seemed nervous and scared that we’d lose.
-Yes, as we’ve had in the last several games, our huge lead dwindled to just a few points in the fourth. No, this isn’t a terrific thing, but it was huge for us that we still hung onto the lead. Particularly since this was the first time we really did that at home. When Charlotte got back into the game, you could hear the energy drain from Madison Square Garden. Some were chanting defense, but not with much conviction. After Landry’s one-man mini-run, suddenly everyone had faith again, and we had those deafening defense chants that we’re known for. Two more times the ‘Cats cut the lead to one, but this time both the players and the fans remained unrattled. People often talk about how a team needs to build up its confidence and faith, but it seems like after so many years of losing, that applies equally to us fans. The last few games on the road, the Knicks only had to deal with their own internal fears of losing, which were easily overcome since many of ‘em like Amar’e, Felton and Turiaf have won big elsewhere. The next hurdle was to do it at home, overcoming the hometown’s doubts. Hopefully this will be a building moment for us.
Win or lose in Charlotte tonight, we finally seem to be on a decent path. Not towards greatness, just respectability. But after the last decade of losing, that sounds like a nice destination.