The Knicks returned home after the Texas Triangle trip to face the Detroit Pistons, one of the teams that gave the the Knicks one of their many disappointing early season losses, in the Motor City. This time, the Knicks defended their home court and grabbed their third win in four games, even if it got sticky there in the final minutes…as usual.
-Tonight was all about Carmelo Anthony for the New York Knicks. For all the talk about if Anthony is going to stay in New York after this season and all the talk about the Knicks somehow being better without him, tonight the Knicks would have lost without him on the floor. Anthony scored 13 of his game-high 34 points in the third quarter and gave the Knicks a 17 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
After the reserves *cough* J.R. Smith and company *cough* allowed the Pistons to get back within 3 points, Anthony had to come in and save the day. Unfortunately after a few minutes on the bench, Anthony had considerably cooled after his run in the third. However after the lead had dwindled down to 1, Raymond Felton missed a free throw that would have stretched the lead to 3, Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony combined for a crucial offensive rebound and Anthony finished the game at the free throw line.
-Raymond Felton returned after another two week hiatus with an injured groin and had a decent game. by no stretch did he look like the Felton of old, but he did have 12 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal. However he did have 4 turnovers, 2 of which were critical down the stretch and allowed the Pistons to cut the lead all the way down to a one possession game. Most importantly his defense was up to the test as he and Iman Shumpert held the Pistons starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to just 7 points combined.
-Andrea Bargnani played a solid game tonight with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Bargnani usually struggles at crashing the boards, but without Tyson Chandler it seemed like Bargnani put extra effort into crashing the glass. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith make up one of the best rebounding frontcourts in the NBA and the Pistons did pull down more than the Knicks with a 54-38 differential in rebounding. Luckily the Pistons shot just 37.2% from the field which is why the Knicks were able to come away with the victory.
-J.R. Smith continues to struggle as the calender is a week into 2014. Four games into January, Smith is averaging 6.5 points on 32.2 percent shooting from the field. Aside from his struggles on the court, Smith also continues to make headlines outside of just his horrendous shot charts and box scores. Smith untied the shoes of Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion during a free throw attempt this past Sunday and just two days later, jokingly or not, Smith attempted the same move on Pistons forward/center Greg Monroe tonight.
Smith is certainly not focused on basketball, something head coach Mike Woodson himself has eluded too. It’s incredible to see the free fall Smith is in since the elbow to Jason Terry in the playoff series vs. the Boston Celtics last year. Smith had surgery to repair his knee prior to the season and that certainly is part of the struggles, but add in being taken in and out of the starting lineup, verbal disagreements with the head coach and the cutting of his little brother Chris Smith in favor of big man Jeremy Tyler, and you have to wonder if it all adds up to one nonchalant and careless J.R. Smith.
-The Knicks’ next game will be this Thursday against the Miami Heat, a team the Knicks went 3-1 against last season. However, these are two very different teams from just a year ago. The Knicks are not nearly the threat from the perimeter that they were a year ago and that seems to be the key to defeating the Heat, just ask Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. The Knicks need to hope that Tyson Chandler makes a quick recovery and play on Thursday also they will need Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and yes even J.R. Smith to have some type of impact on the game in order for it to be close. It can’t be all about Carmelo Anthony.