The display the New York Knicks put on Monday night was the kind of thing the most optimistic fans imagined after the Carmelo Anthony trade. Without three prominent players in their rotation, including starting point guard Chauncey Billups, the Knicks embarrassed an over .500 Utah Jazz team, who nobody will mistake for a title contender but is also far from being the Cleveland Cavaliers...maybe a bad example, how about the Washington Wizards?
Regardless, Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were both unstoppable, going for over 30 points each and combining to shoot 24-31 from the field. Toney Douglas continued to show he might be more than just a backup point guard, hitting 5-7 three point attempts and finishing with 20 points, while the rest of the roster took advantage of the extended minutes because of the absence of Ronnie Turiaf, Bill Walker and Billups.
Since their second unexplainable loss to Cleveland in as many weeks, the Knicks have taken care of two playoff caliber teams on consecutive nights. They now step up the degree of difficulty with back to back road games against the surging Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks, one of the Western Conference powerhouses. They follow up with a home and home versus the Indiana Pacers, who are looking like the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed before getting Memphis at home.
Let's see how they Knicks handle these next five games, all of whom are against teams who have a good chance of ending up in the playoffs.
It looks like this team may be a little deeper than we initially expected. Jared Jeffries has turned into the starting center, leaving the fragile Turiaf in a bench role he is better suited for. Douglas is looking like a serious offensive threat off the bench after Billups returns. Anthony Carter appears capable of offering quality minutes, as does Roger Mason Jr. who was once buried on the bench. Yes, even Shelden Williams can give some fouls and awkward looking rebounds.
Maybe the wins over Atlanta and Utah were a mirage and the Knicks aren't ready for back to back road games against quality Western Conference opponents, or maybe they are ready to jump up the Eastern Conference standings, where they are now only 3 games behind Atlanta for the number five seed.
Actually, it may be better off if the Knicks stay in the number six spot so they can take a boat down the river of tears to Miami in the first round.