Notes From Knicks 120-103 Victory Over Cleveland

71 second half points. 50 bench points. 120 points overall. This team can be pretty damn good.

The Knicks kicked off the second half of the season with a comeback 120-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Trailing by 12 at halftime, the Knicks woke up and exploded offensively in the second half. Steve Novak was stroking 3′s and rocking belts as he hit 5/8 from downtown. New York’s bench was phenomenal, scoring 50 points, and made the difference in the game. Amar’e Stoudemire did not exactly dominate but he showed flashes as he had a couple nice dunks. Carmelo Anthony led all Knicks in scoring with 22 points.

Here are my notes from the game:

  • The Blood Backcourt! Baron Davis and JR Smith were excellent coming off the bench tonight. Davis had 8 assists in 14 minutes and JR chipped in 9 points. Smith did not shoot the ball real well tonight but he was aggressive in getting to the rim and his impact helped open up the floor for others. The two newcomers also connected on a sick alley-oop in the fourth quarter. Their chemistry is already impeccable. I thought Baron was rusty in his early minutes tonight but he settled in nicely as the game went on. He’s for real. This is not the un-motivated Davis who played in LA and Cleveland, this guy is motivated and he’s still got it. Being from the bay area, I know how great Baron can play. He was fantastic with Golden State and so far he looks pretty good. He won’t ever get to that Golden State level but he does not really need to. It is truly amazing how quickly the Knicks point guard situation has turned from a shot bricking weakness to an electric strength. This will be very fun to watch.
  • Speaking of the Knicks other point guard, he was pretty good tonight as well. Jeremy Lin, fresh off the rising stars game, scored 19 points and recorded 13 assists. More importantly, he only turned the ball over once. I thought Lin played a lot more in control tonight and therefore did not get himself in trouble in the lane. I love this role from Lin. No longer does he need to be the scorer. No longer does he need to carry the scoring load for this team. His style of play is perfect for what the Knicks want to do offensively. He played only 33 minutes tonight and he still dished 13 assists. I love what Lin did tonight and I think performances like this will begin to be the norm with this team continues to gel offensively.
  • I really like what I saw from Melo tonight. He made quick decisions and did not hold the ball. I think the mantra that he is a selfish player is stupid. People criticize him for shooting the ball. ISN’T THAT WHAT “SCORERS” ARE SUPPOSED TO DO? I mean how can you criticize a scorer for shooting the ball. Dirk and Kobe hold the ball more than anyone and you don’t hear about them being “selfish players”. However, as much as I hate this mantra, the media heat may have done good things for Melo’s psyche. Here’s my reasoning. He is an elite mid-range jump shooter and he is very quick to  get to the rim. I think he is more dangerous making quick moves and decisions than he is stagnantly isolated. Now he is a great 1 on 1 player, don’t get me wrong, but I loved how he would catch and drive tonight. With his quickness, there are very few guys who can stay in front of him. Even tonight there were a few times where he made a quick decision and ran himself into some trouble but he was able to get fouls out of those situations. With his big frame, getting defenders out of position will bring contact and get him to the line easier. I hope Melo can continue to play at this up-tempo pace because I think that will cause defenses to break down and that will create both scoring and playmaking opportunities for Melo.
  • I know this isn’t about the Knicks, but Kyrie Irving is really good. He was incredibly impressive tonight with his grit, quickness and skill. He has a very complete game which is rare to see from rookies, much less rookie point guards. Somehow he was a -19 tonight but I thought he played an excellent game. Same with Tristan Thompson. I think both neophytes (thanks Clyde) have a bright future in this league and I think Cleveland is going to be pretty good moving forward.
  • Amar’e wasn’t great but he showed flashes. He told us all to “stay tuned”. Early in the game, you saw only things that would make you want to claw your eyes out. Stoudemire started 0/4 and looked like he was doing his best butthurt Lamar Odom impersonation. However, as the game went on Stoudemire began to find his legs a little bit. Obviously he is not back and he did not play a great game but he had two nice dunks that showcased some anise athleticism. At one end, it makes me sad that I’m praising him for two dunks but I have to be realistic and analyze him fairly. He’s sucked this year and he’s looked old and injured. He admitted his athleticism was the problem and he said he would lose weight in order to get some of it back. His dunks tonight did show flashes of that. He didn’t explode like last year but his dunks were a step in the right direction. This is not a case where one game he’ll come back and have 7 dunks on people. He is going to have to work himself back into elite form step by step. Tonights game was a step in the right direction. Hopefully on Sunday he takes another step. Then another step. And another step.
  • Where does Jorts fit in? Tonight, the Knick rookie returned from a broken wrist. He played 0 minutes. With Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries excelling off the bench behind Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire, it will be hard for Mike D’Antoni to find Jorts a lot of minutes. Personally, I think it was the right decision tonight to not play Harrellson. I think it will be the right decision on sunday, unless Novak is ice cold or Jeffries gets in foul trouble, to not play him again. I love Jorts. He is big, strong and plays hard. He is a good outside shooter and a very good defender. He is interesting in that he is a hybrid of both Jeffries and Novak but he trumps neither player in their key skill. He’s not a better shooter than Novak and he’s not a better defender than Jeffries. It will be interesting to see what happens with Harrellson’s minutes. Personally, I think he’s the odd man out right now. Jeffries is far too valuable on defense and Novak’s performance speaks for itself.
  • Novak was the star tonight. Melo was great. Baron and JR were solid. Lin was very efficient. Novak was the difference. His long bombs in the 3rd quarter were what turned the game around. While the Knicks collectively chipped away at Cleveland’s 3rd quarter lead, Novak began to pull the Knicks away late in the 3rd and early in the 4th. He finished 5/8 from downtown and did multiple championship belts. I absolutely love what Novak does. He plays hard on both ends, despite the fact that he’s wildly mediocre on defense, and he always comes up big when it counts. More impressive than his hot shooting is his confidence. Novak’s confidence is at an all time high right now. When he gets hot, the team builds off his scoring. Obviously the points are huge but the swagger Novak emits really wakes up the crowd and sparks the team. Novak played 17 minutes tonight. I think that is a perfect role for him and I expect him to keep playing those kind of minutes.
  • This isn’t  from tonight but it’s still hilarious:
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