Basketball isn’t always a complex game. Sometimes simple things like hustle, effort, ball movement, and most importantly, defense are all that is needed to remedy a struggling team.
Last night’s 113-106 win over the Orlando Magic wasn’t a work of art by any stretch of the imagination. The Knicks are still a bad defensive team, who let a six point lead with two minutes left slip away and who couldn’t get a key stop up by three points with 5.7 seconds left, as Jason Richardson buried an uncontested three to force overtime. Let’s not celebrate a Knicks recommitment to defense on a night they allowed 106 points. It was a step in the right direction, a direction that has many more steps needed by this team to become a serious contender in the playoffs.
You can be encouraged by the energy the team played with. From the opening tip, the Knicks played with a desperate energy that has been sorely missing. There wasn’t any of the lackadaisical head-hanging which was all too frequent during their losing streak. The offense began to show signs of moving the ball around better. With the amount of talent on this team, a dedication to simple things like effort, hustle, and ball movement are going to keep the Knicks competitive on just about any night.
They are also going to be competitive on any night Carmelo Anthony decides to play like the top five player in the league he is. ‘Melo dropped 39 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and played like a leader of the team. This wasn’t Amare Stoudemire’s best night but Anthony was able to compensate for it, as Stoudemire needs to do on nights when Anthony is off.
Part of the supporting cast showed up, with Toney Douglas adding 16 points and Chauncey Billups putting together one of his better performances since joining the team, with 17 points and 6 assists. Shelden Williams also showed he deserves to be a consistent part of the rotation, providing a strong defensive effort against Dwight Howard. Landry Fields still needs to get back to being the player he was the first half of the season and Shawne Williams needs to rediscover his touch from the outside, for the Knicks to really reach their potential.
Last night brought a much needed end to an embarrassing losing streak that came at the worst possible time. The Knicks now have a chance to build on the win by facing three of the four worst teams in the Eastern Conference, starting with the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night. This season, it has been the sub .500 teams who have given the Knicks the most trouble. Now is the time to grow up, handle teams you are better then, and build a four game winning streak so you can get back over .500 and head into the playoffs with momentum.