We’re in the middle of one of the best regular season stretches in the history of New York Knicks basketball. That’s both good and bad, but it’s undeniably true. It’s been a week full of accomplishments, none of which should be taken lightly or just tossed aside and deemed meaningless:
- The 12-game winning streak is the third best in team history.
- Carmelo Anthony scored 40-plus points in 3 straight games, tying Bernard King as a Knick record.
- The Knicks now have 50 wins, which is the first time since the 1999-2000 season they’ve done that.
- We’re not quite there yet, but it would take an apocalyptic disaster for the Knicks not to win the Atlantic Division, their first title since 1994. Among the teams who have won multiple Atlantic titles since then are the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, who are no longer members of the Atlantic Division.
- Head coach Mike Woodson has the most wins in his first 100 games as Knicks coach (68)
The Knicks have been one of the most panned teams by experts, analysts and bloggers all season. Maybe they’re just an unlikable team to a lot of people; I’m not sure what it is, but there really is no reason for any of the Knicks’ accomplishments this season to be diminished. The Knicks are a flawed team, but who isn’t? And we haven’t even gotten to Carmelo Anthony yet.
Last week, we had J.R. Smith take over the top spot, the first time someone not named ‘Melo was atop the rankings. He responded with a historic week. You’re welcome, Knicks fans.
1. Carmelo Anthony (Last: 2) – Out of his four performances from last week, the following statline from Sunday’s win over the Thunder was Anthony’s weakest: 36 points on 15-29 shooting, 12 rebounds, 9 of them offensive. So yeah, it’s safe to say the dude has been playing some pretty good basketball, If by “pretty good” you mean he’s barely missing any shots. On top of the insane scoring (averaging nearly 42 points a game in the last four at a clip of about SIXTY PERCENT), Anthony is rebounding the ball well – often on his own misses, getting second and third-effort attempts at the rim to go. Anthony has also been crucial to the Knicks’ success at taking care of the ball, since, you know, it’s in his hands a whole lot. He has six total turnovers in the past four games, with five of them coming in one game against Milwaukee. For some context, Kevin Durant has 14 in his last four games, Kobe Bryant has 13, and James Harden has 13. And while Melo has spent a lot of time on the perimeter during this stretch, he has also been guarded by the likes of Shane Battier, Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Josh Smith.
Melo won’t keep scoring this much; 40+ points a game for much longer is totally unreasonable. But the Knicks can beat anyone in a seven game series if Melo can play with this efficiency and with this hot of a hand.
2. J.R. Smith (Last: 1) – There was only one place for Earl’s efficiency to go after last week’s rankings. Still, he dropped 22 against the Thunder including a few absolute daggers – his long range, shot-clock beating 3 after a masterful assist-from-the-floor by Raymond Felton being the most memorable. Smith also had a very impressive 30 and 10 rebounds in a very workmanlike win over the Bucks. He’s clearly the Knicks’ second scoring option outside of Anthony, and the evolution of his overall game over the course of the season has turned him into somebody the Knicks need, and need to trust, in the postseason.
3. Raymond Felton (Last: 3) – Felton has had some sneakily good games recently, and I’ll continue to heave credit his way as the Knicks continue to take care of the ball so well (six team turnovers against OKC). It isn’t always in the numbers for Ray, although this week he had two strong near-double doubles, going for 16 and 9 against OKC and 10 and 8 against Miami. When the Knicks move the ball and don’t turn it over on offense, they’re very tough to beat. Raymond Felton plays a huge part in both of those things.
4. Jason Kidd (Last: 4) – Kidd, along with Chris Copeland, kept the Knicks afloat in the first half against OKC, draining three 3s in the second quarter. He finished with four total from deep, the other being a clutch one from the corner in the 4th quarter, and also slipped to the basket for an easy layup on an inbound underneath the Thunder hoop. Had 7 and 5 rebounds against Milwaukee and Atlanta, respectively, filling out the stat sheet outside of the PTS column as he’s wont to do. there was a bit of concern in the middle of the season when Kidd’s play and perimeter shooting took a dip, but he’s back to playing how he did early in the season. The fact that the Knicks are playing their best ball during the times Kidd plays well and seems to do everything out there is simply not a coincidence.
5. Tyson Chandler (Last: 5) – He’s clearly still shaking off the rust from the neck/shoulder injuries, but battled hard on Sunday in OKC finishing with 15 points, highlighted by a few signature emphatic throw downs. It’s pretty amazing how competent Chandler is when guarding guards, which happens all too often because of the Knicks’ manic switching on defense. It seems the only guy Chandler couldn’t handle all week was Reggie Jackson, so yeah, whatever.
6. Pablo Prigioni (Last: 6) – I’ll repeat what I said last week, amending one small detail: The Knicks are 12-0 since Prigioni was inserted into the starting lineup. No further analysis or opinion needed.
7. Chris Copeland (Last: 10) A much-deserved bump in the rankings for Cope, who had one hell of a second quarter against OKC on Sunday. As I mentioned before, Cope and Kidd were the main reasons the Knicks took a lead into halftime. Copeland had 11 of his 13 points in that second quarter, and even recorded a block, something I thought was maybe illegal in whatever European league Copeland has played in for the past five years.
8. Iman Shumpert (Last: 7) – Shump’s been kept off the scoresheet (this is a hockey term, BTW) the past two games, and his minutes have decreased every game over the past five. I’m not sure I agree with that, given the Knicks propensity to fall asleep on defense and the fact that Shump is shooting over 40% from deep this season.
9. Kenyon Martin (Last: 8) – The Knicks are being, and should be, smart with KMart the rest of the regular season, meaning that they just need to make sure he’s healthy come Game 1. This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: he’s a much better backup center option than Chris Copeland. People fear going inside the paint with KMart hanging around the rim, as they should.
10. Steve Novak (Last: 9) – What Novak’s done during the winning streak is exactly what Novak needs to do in the limited minuted he’ll get come playoff time, and it’s not rocket science: bury 3s. Two against OKC, three against Atlanta, two against Miami. Mike Woodson has him at about 15 minutes a game right now, which is just about right.
11. Amar’e Stoudemire (Last: 11) – The Knicks’ current rotation just looks…I don’t know…right.
12. Marcus Camby (Last: 12) – OK, even I’ve fallen off the “Camby can make a difference in the playoffs” train. It was a fun ride while it lasted.
13. James White (Last: 13) – I don’t know the official number off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure White’s record as a starter wasn’t as good as Pablo Prigioni’s. Can anyone confirm that?
14. Kurt Thomas (Last: 14) – There’s this thing the Yankees do when they’ve clinched everything and it’s the last game or two of the season, where they let a current player manage a game. I remember Ruben Sierra did this once. The Knicks should do the same with Kurt Thomas.