Stephen Curry cemented himself in Madison Square Garden history with his 54 point, 11-13 from behind the arc game on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The performance marked the Garden’s third highest point total in it’s long, decorated history, behind Jordan’s famous 55 in 1995, and Kobe’s incredible 61 in 2009. Curry may have proved no one in the game has as pure of a shot as he recently displayed, simply making it look like a clinic on the court. The most important aspect of the game though was, the Knicks won 109-105, extending the winning streak to two games.
In one of his rare, crucial mistakes of the evening, Curry turned the ball over late in the fourth quarter that ultimately led to a Carmelo Anthony three-pointer to give the Knicks a 102-100 lead, shifting the momentum in the game. Melo comes up clutch late in the game once again in his illustrious career, supplying Knicks fans with the feeling of hope once again.
Melo had the quietest 35 points imaginable, coupled with a season high 8 assists, showcasing his most well-rounded game this year. Tyson Chandler added 16 points and a career high 28 rebounds, making his presence felt in the paint all night. We all know Chandler is bringing that effort to the table every night.
A championship team must have more then one player to step and take over the scoring load on a nightly basis, and the question of who that player is for the Knicks has been a mystery all season long.
With Jason Kidd’s shooting percentages dropping by the game, and Raymond Felton’s inconsistent play since returning from injury, it’s hard to rely on them. Felton was averaging 17.2 points per game during the month of December, proving he could take on the job as the primary scorer when Melo needed a breather or a night off. That’s not been the case of late, since Felton’s scoring has dropped dramatically since returing from a broken pinkey, to 11.7 points per game. He simply has not been the same type of player, and recently his aggression has been non-existent during some points in the game. Felton did have one of the most important plays of the game on Wednesday, showing a ton of discipline, and blocking a Curry shot down the stretch.
Amare Stoudemire has been doing an excellent job off the bench of late, shooting the ball efficiently. The fact is head coach Mike Woodson has a minute cap placed on Stoudemire, so it’s hard to say if he’ll have the opportunity to take over on a nightly basis. It’s time to face the music, and as most of us know by now, Stoudemire just isn’t the 25-30 point-a-night scorer like he used to be. He’s great for a boost of energy and a scoring surge for the second unit, but minutes is a key factor to a player’s production.
This leaves us down to JR Smith, who truly does have an array of skills on the court, and when he gets hot, he can be lethal. JR started this season on a torrid pace, averaging a career high 16.1 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. He proved he’s capable of taking over the role as the Knicks definitive #2 scoring option, when he tallied 26 points and hit six three’s in the win over the Warriors on Wednesday. The performance is almost overlooked due to the show Curry put on for the Garden crowd, but JR’s shooting was an integral piece to the win. He’s been an incredible closer for the Knicks this season as well, and that certainly is very telling of a player.
If the Knicks were able to get this type of play from JR every time they take the court, the sky can be the limit for this team. That’s where relying on JR can seem to get difficult, as we can only hope Wednesday wasn’t simply an aberration. JR’s shooting percentage’s dipped consistently in the first three months of the season, starting at a respectable 43.8% from the field in November, then down to 39.5% in December, and eventually plummeting to 36.6% for January. He’s been more efficient here in February, shooting 43%, but experiencing a slight minute decrease, to about 32 minutes a game from the previous month’s 35 minutes. Knicks fans can only sit down and cross their fingers when JR starts launches jumpers up, but you never know when he can simply light it up.
The fact that JR seems to be the next guy in line to dominate the ball in Melo’s absence, bothers me to some degree, knowing he can lose his head any night. On top of his composure being questioned since coming into the NBA, he’s a notorious hot/cold type of player, which could get a team in trouble early. Only time will tell if JR can take over as the unquestioned #2, but I believe he has the potential to be. It’s up to him to take responsibility and rise to the next step in his career, and he couldn’t have a better opportunity then right now, here in New York City.