New York Knicks: Finding A Way In Big Spots

TOJ on the New York Knicks finding a way to gut out a win in Milwaukee last night

The New York Knicks can be infuriating to watch at times. This season has been a bizarre roller coaster of about five different teams, all of which are deeply flawed but unquestionably talented. The current version is entirely too reliant on Carmelo Anthony on the offensive end and is still prone to mind numbing lapses on defense despite having two candidates for first team All-Defense in Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert.

Prior to this week starting, we knew the Knicks would need to split with Chicago and beat Milwaukee if they wanted a chance to make the playoffs. They pulled it off. Last night was a textbook example of this team finding a way despite their flaws. Milwaukee gave them their best shot in their building. Monta Ellis finally woke up and ripped off 35 points. Brandon Jennings hit a number of ridiculous shots en route to 22 points. Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders were blocking shots like Serge Ibaka and Dwight Howard but the Knicks still prevailed.

The primary reason is that Carmelo Anthony is playing as well as he ever has in his career. He dropped in 32 points on an efficient 13-26 from the field, along with grabbing 10 rebounds. Whenever the Knicks offense begins to sputter, he has found a way to bail them out. His support on the offensive end has been erratic at best. Tyson Chandler added 19 last night but really at this point JR Smith or Iman Shumper is the team’s number two scoring option.

Smith has been wildly inconsistent. He literally has zero conscience and will continue to jack up shots and make head scratching plays mixed in with making unbelievably difficult shots and distributing the ball like a point guard. Last night he was brutal for 3 and a 1/2 quarters but woke up when it mattered most and hit what turned out to be the game winning 3 pointer in the final minute. Simply put, he deserves the minutes over Landry Fields, a shooting guard who can’t shoot. I like Landry’s intangibles but you can’t play him in crunch time.

At point guard, Baron Davis is the starter in name only. He logged a forgetful 19 minutes last night and had more turnovers than assists. For some reason Davis repeatedly drives into the paint and passes up an easy shot to attempt a difficult pass that is usually stolen. The Knicks crunch time point guard is turning into rookie Iman Shumpert who played 42 minutes last night. We know how good Shumpert is on defense but his offense game still has a ways to go. He is inconsistent shooting the ball but similar to Smith, doesn’t lack confidence to attack the basket.

So this is what you have with the Knicks. A team entirely too reliant on an erratic shooting guard and a rookie point guard but a gutsy team that has shown an ability to scrap out wins. When you play defense and with confidence on offense, the wins will come. Will they come consistently enough to win a playoff series? That is the question that still needs to be answered.

New York Knicks: Sign JR Smith, Depth No Longer An Issue

The New York Knicks just might have added the final piece of the puzzle today by signing shooter JR Smith

The New York Knicks signed JR Smith today, potentially adding the final piece to the puzzle of a team who all of a sudden looks like a very real contender in the Eastern Conference.

Smith provides a needed knock down shooter at the guard position and offensive firepower off the bench. There aren’t anymore valid questions about the Knicks depth right now. Even if Baron Davis doesn’t come back healthy, and by all indications he is coming back for the second half of the year, Iman Shumpert and Smith provide an explosive, athletic duo off the bench at guard. Up front, the Knicks have defensive depth with Jared Jeffries and offensive depth with Steve Novak and Josh Harrellson returning from injury in the coming weeks.

Let’s not act like the Knicks haven’t dug themselves out of a big hole with their recent 7 game winning streak. A win tonight puts them ahead of Boston in the standings and within 2.5 games of Indiana for the six seed in the East. They are also only 5 games behind a Philadelphia team in their division that is bound to cool off eventually.

That being said, we are going to learn everything we need to know about this Knicks roster in their first nine games of March. When they play nine straight against viable playoff contenders, including games in Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, and Indiana. Right now, I think there is no reason the Knicks can’t assert themselves as the third best team in the East. They have a chance to prove it during that stretch of games.

I don’t buy into the Carmelo Anthony can’t fit hype. People talk about Anthony like he has been a loser his whole life and like he didn’t win a National Championship and a Gold Medal. Anthony was the best player on that Gold Medal run and managed to share the ball fine with his teammates. A quality point guard a dream come true for him. It will only provide easier looks for him and take pressure off him on the offensive end. You really think the Knicks are downgrading by moving Bill Walker out of the starting line-up for Anthony?

As for Smith, he prevents us from ever having to see Mike Bibby or Toney Douglas on the floor again and he is a more natural scorer than Landry Fields or Iman Shumpert. I am a little concerned about how backcourt minutes will be distributed when Davis comes back, but ultimately in this system and in this shortened season, you can’t have enough weapons.