Highlightin’ Hoops: Time To Get Cookin’ At Home
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By Ryan Schneider
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Ok…now I don’t blame this on anyone but myself, but I have gotten back into that excited, “Here we go…” mode again. After a gritty, high-scoring, three-game winning streak against the weakest part of the Western Conference, the Knicks appear to be back in the discussion (for the 7th or 8th seed).
A week and a half ago disappointed, and frustrated, weren’t even close to describing how I felt about the lackluster start by the Orange and Blue. They were playing uninspiring basketball. However, after a couple of NBA Jam-like wins where they put up 113, 125 and 124 points respectively, the Knicks are now a second place team in the Atlantic division…and have an opportunity to climb back to .500 with a home-and-home set against the Charlotte Bobcats starting tonight at the Garden.
Here is what impressed me most about the West Coast swing…Amare began to emerge as a leader. Despite a mind-blowing performance by Blake Griffin, where he made the basket look like a little-tikes hoop (has anyone bought the Griffin over Mozgov poster yet?)… Stoudemire put the team on his back and wound up with 39 and 11, ten of which came in the fourth quarter.
Danilo Gallinari, quite frankly, was superb. He had 31 against the Clippers, 23 against the Warriors and 27 against the Kings…but here is what stood out most, in those three games he was 35-36 from the free throw line. He averaged 12 free throw attempts per game in the three wins. Considering he only shot 28 free throws through the first seven games of the season this is a significant improvement. If Galo continues to learn how to initiate contact, get to the free throw line, and score in ways other than launching contested threes, he will begin to live up to the Dirk comparisons.
Finally, Raymond Felton was terrific…It may have taken a little longer than Knick fans hoped, but it’s fun to watch a player start to understand the offense right before your eyes. He is making the smart decision within the confines of D’Antoni’s system. And his ability to put the bread in the basket is making him a legitimate scoring threat against opposing defenses. It will make the pick-and-roll with Amare that much harder to guard in the future. Unlike the last couple of years when teams could go under screens and dare Duhon to shoot, they have to respect Felton’s offensive ability. He is shooting 47 percent from the floor including 39 percent from three.
So…that’s the sugar on top…the Knicks have looked good over the last three games. Regardless of the teams you are playing, 3-1 on any West Coast swing is something to celebrate…throw in a 5-4 record on the road and we are looking at some impressive early season indicators. Now it is time to take the traveling act back home.
The Knicks are among the league’s bottom dwellers at home…Gallinari has to improve on his 12.5 ppg compared to 25 on the road while the team has to improve on its NBA worst 26 percent shooting from behind the arc. I know I preach it in these blogs, but there also has to be far more attention paid to the defensive effort. I’m thrilled they are scoring at such an impressive clip…but allowing 108 points a game is ridiculous. Finally, scoring more than five or six points in the last six minutes of the game would be a nice improvement.
The Knicks left a pungent odor of stink when they left MSG on the 14th…they are a dreadful 1-4 in front of the Garden faithful and that needs to change starting tonight. A three-game winning streak, second in the division, two wins away from .500, MSG is going to be rockin’. Amare and his boys have an opportunity to get this city on board for the first exciting season in a decade…So instead of ramping up my expectations and projecting ten games down the road, all I am going say is this…On behalf of all Knick fans, let’s get a win tonight.
Nice to sit down and enjoy a Monday marathon of college hoops yesterday. UCONN and Wichita State kicked things off at 3 o’ clock and that took us until 2 in the morning, where Washington put on a public humiliation of Virginia. And that was just in Hawaii. Sprinkle in a little Duke win over Marquette, and Frank Martin hollering at his K-State squad and you have the makings of a terrific start to the basketball week. That sets us up for an even better Tuesday…#1 Duke vs. #4 K-State, #9 Kentucky vs. #11 Washington, and #2 Michigan State vs. UCONN.
Just because I get happier when LeBron and friends get clipped…the Pacers walk into South Beach last night and beat the Heat. Miami is now 8-6. Are they still better than the ’95-’96 Bulls? 72-10?
If Miami fans want to watch a championship caliber team play basketball this year, look no further than the San Antonio Spurs. Winners of eleven straight, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan, have rediscovered those winning ways. After a disappointing season last year (50-32 was disappointing)…San Antonio has a healthy Parker and a fresh Ginobili who are both playing arguably the best basketball of their careers. How about Ginobili’s numbers…20ppg. 4.8 apg. 3.2rpg. 1.8spg. 47% from the field, 2.5 threes per game, all while shooting 90% from the line. That is a stat-sheet stuffer.
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