I made it out to Madison Square Garden for the first time this season to see the New York Knicks take on the Charlotte Bobcats. The Knicks have been inconsistent en route to a 5-4 start, however last night they showed an ability to win despite Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire having an off night and the bench providing no scoring. Mike D’Antoni coached teams generally don’t win games where they score 91 points but the Knicks found a way yesterday.
Their recent three game winning streak hasn’t came against an impressive slate of opponents, which will make it interesting to see if they can raise their overall level of play with a tough four game stretch on the way, starting tomorrow night against the first place Philadelphia 76ers.
The consistency on defense needs to be better but they do seem to be trending in the right direction. Tyson Chandler is starting to have a trickle down effect on the rest of the roster and had a monster night with 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks and 20 points to boot. As a team, the Knicks came up with 11 steals last night, which helped them manufacture points in the open court to compensate for their half court struggles.
Iman Shumpert made his second straight start at point guard and you really can’t say enough about the rookie so far. I am not sure he can keep up such an impressive pace for the entire season but Shumpert runs the offense like a seasoned veteran and provides a ton of energy to the Knicks on both sides of the court. His contributions have helped mask the struggles by Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, who both aren’t playing with any confidence at the moment.
Nobody is sure how the Knicks will handle the return of Baron Davis, which is rumored to be approaching by the end of the month. Yet, whatever starting line-up the Knicks eventually settle on, they need more from their bench. At the moment, they are relying on Mike Bibby and Bill Walker to knock down shots on a consistent basis, which is a risky proposition.
The goal for the Knicks should be to gain home court advantage in the first round, especially with the Atlantic Division there for the taking. Tomorrow night against the Sixers is a big chance for them to make an early season statement by defending their home court against their top two competitors for a division title since they already knocked off Boston.