Jan 13, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Phoenix Suns during the first quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks: Is it Safe to Think the Knicks are Back on Track?

Believe it or not, it’s an unfortunate truth that it’s easier to write about the New York Knicks when they are losing instead of when they are on win streaks like this current one.

The last time the Knicks went on a five-game win streak we all remember how quickly it evaporated at the hands of elite NBA teams. Suddenly the topics of conversation were things like a team mutiny, Woodson’s impending firing, and of course the likelihood of a Melo-less Knicks team. So what are we supposed to think about these latest four wins?

Unfortunately for me, I’ve been burned by the Knicks far too often in my life to get roped into thinking anything has changed. This is not to say that this recognition doesn’t irk me. I want to believe the Knicks have turned a corner as bad I tried to convince myself they did two weeks ago. I really do. However, with upper-crest teams like Miami, Portland, and Oklahoma on the schedule before the All-Star break, I think we all need to see how the Knicks perform against those teams to really tell us something.

Nov 21, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) celebrates with center Tyson Chandler (6) and guard Raymond Felton (2) in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. The Mavs beat the Knicks 114-111. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 21, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) celebrates with center Tyson Chandler (6) and guard Raymond Felton (2) in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. The Mavs beat the Knicks 114-111. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Still, like every abused Knick fan is prone to do, I started listening to the voices in my head that whispered things like: “Oh goodie, we’re back to playing Carmelo Anthony at the 4 again,” and “Tim Hadaway Jr. really looks like a rising star,” and even “Hey maybe Melo really is staying.” After all, with bigs like Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Kenyon Martin out, the Knicks do look very different than they did at any point earlier now that Melo is back at the position he’s had the most success in. It was starting to happen yet again: a string of victories against some crappy teams was totally pulling me back in.

I needed more proof so I thought it would be helpful to compare this win streak to the last five-game streak, along with that ugly five-game losing streak. Melo has looked great all year but surely there must have been some other stats that might be able separate this win streak from the others.

First 5 game win streak

(Jan 5 – 11)

5 game losing streak

(Jan 14 – 20)

Current 4 game win streak

(Jan 24 – Jan 30)

95.8 points per game

93.6 points per game

116.5 points per game

46% field goal shooting

34% field goal shooting

53% field goal shooting

47.2  rebounds per game

38.6  rebounds per game

44.3  rebounds per game

20.2 assists per game

18.8 assists per game

22.7 assists per game

11.6 turnovers per game

13.6 turnovers per game

11.5 turnovers per game

 

Five game win streak from January 5th though January 11th

When the Knicks were on their first five game week streak between January 5 and January 11 they were averaging 95.8 points a game while shooting 46% from the field. Pretty solid but more impressive was wins against Miami, Dallas, and Phoenix. During that time they were also averaging 47.2 rebounds, 20.2 assists and 11.4 turnovers per game. This was the first time J.R. Smith got benched for his poor play and a series of silly incidents, so I thought the Knicks might have had a philosophical shift in goals.

Five game losing streak from January 14th though January 20th

After a game against got the Bobcats resulted in a loss, the Knicks had a difficult schedule ahead of them with Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, and Brooklyn on deck. The Knicks would go on to lose in embarrassing fashion, and talk of Woodson’s firing resurfaced. During this time the Knicks averaged 93.6 points on a paltry 34% shooting, with just 38 rebounds, 18 assists and 13.6 turnovers per game. The beating by the Pacers seemingly served as a corrective measure that shook the Knicks back into bottom of the Eastern Conference cellar. Smith would get benched again for a game but his scoring did go up to 16.3 points and .41%.

4 game win streak from January 24th though January 30th

With Bargs and Amare out, the Knicks would revert back to a successful small line-up in stunning fashion of course highlighted by Melo’s 62 point explosion. During this past week the Knicks have looked magnificent. Not only were they dominating bad teams, but the game stats have never been better. During this recent win streak the Knicks have been scoring an astounding 116.5 points per game on 53% shooting, while grabbing 44 rebounds, 22.7 assists, and only 11 turnovers. The Knicks leading secondary scoring option, JR, also has looked great by averaging 16.5 points on a much improved .49% shooting.

Of course it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Knicks have better stats during this win streak than the one earlier in the month. Melo’s never looked better and so has JR, but the real story behind this streak is Hardaway Jr. You see, THJ has really been the one variable that is different in each of the three sets above. From Jan 5 – 11th he was only averaging 15 minutes a game with just 5 points to show for it. Then during the losing streak his playing time increased to 20 minutes a game with just 7.8 points to show for it.  However, during these past four games THJ has been averaging major minutes with 30 per game. To show for it he has scored an impressive 18.3 points per game on 57% shooting. That kind of support just simply wasn’t there for most of the year and really gives the Knicks the kind of offensive support that’s been missing all year.

Jan 9, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) reacts after scoring a three-point shot against the Miami Heat during the second quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 9, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) reacts after scoring a three-point shot against the Miami Heat during the second quarter of a game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

So, is it safe to exhale now and declare the Knicks back? Of course not! Haven’t you learned anything? The Knicks are supposed to beat bad teams, and it’s a good sign they are finally doing so this week, but until the Knicks can land some major victories against elite teams, I’m afraid they are still Eastern Conference road kill. They’ll have a chance to do that against teams like the Heat, Blzaers, and Thunder over the next week, so we’ll see very quickly how well the Knicks will look against better teams very soon. Until then, I really can’t get too excited about the current streak.

What’s more encouraging, though, is that THJ could be the player the Knicks thought they were getting from Shumpert this year, which of course makes Shumpert even more expendable near the trade deadline where big names, like Rondo for instance, can be nabbed as part of a last minute trade deal.  I’m okay with that, and you should probably be as well. (That’s of course bearing the Knicks not trading THJ’s rising stock as part of a typical Knicks panic move)

Follow Richard Bertin on Twitter and check out his Knicks’ blog: “Starks Raving Mad”

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony JR Smith Mike Woodson New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr

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