Highlightin’ Hoops: Defending The Mecca
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By Ryan Schneider
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Was it pretty? Absolutely not…Could Gallinari guard a tree yesterday? Absolutely not…Was Tayshaun Prince unstoppable? Absolutely yes…Did the Knicks miss two opportunities to win it in regulation and the first overtime? Absolutely yes…Should the Knicks have lost? Absolutely…Did they? No…
The New York Knicks went on the road, the second game of a back-to-back and earned a hard-fought, gutsy win. Landry Fields has solidified himself as one of the best rookies in the league. Fields had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Most importantly his timely offensive rebounds proved to be back-breakers for the Pistons. Fields may not be a highlight reel sort of player. However, he is a nuts and bolts guy that does the dirty work. He plays D, crashes the glass, can knock down an open shot, and most importantly, his basketball IQ is through the roof.
So…the Knicks have won 6 of 7, including five in a row away from home (something they haven’t done in ten years) and have the chance to get above .500 at home tomorrow against the New Jersey Nets. On a day when Raymond Felton was literally sick to his stomach, Amare stepped up as a leader with 37 points and 15 boards…he dominated the interior, he was un-guardable, and quite frankly displayed some MVP like moments.
For the first time in years the Knicks have established a little swagger away from home. However, it is time to start putting the pieces together at the Garden. I hate sounding like a broken record, but come on fellas it’s the Mecca. Defend it with some pride. The next three home games come against the Nets, T-Wolves and Raptors, all teams with losing records. What was a big reason for the Knick dominance in the 90’s? Home court advantage…
A visiting player knew they were in for a hell of a night when you walked into the Garden fifteen years ago. You would face a raucous crowd, 48 minutes of intensity, and a charged up team that fed off the Knick faithful. Mikhail Prokhorov had the guts to hang a billboard across the street from the Garden that read, “Blueprint for greatness.” While I applaud Prokhorov’s competitive spirit, it was a direct slap in the face to the New York Knicks. Tomorrow night is an opportunity for on-court revenge…a chance for the Knicks to finally go out and get a much needed home-court win.
The next week and a half is pivotal for the Knicks. 5 of their next 6 games come against opponents with losing records. Taking advantage of this opportunity to move comfortably above the .500 mark is essential. After December 10th, the schedule gets significantly more challenging. Five of their last eight games of the month come against the Celtics, Magic, Bulls and Heat. A tough stretch run for anyone in this league, let alone a team try to fight their way into the playoff hunt.
It has been an impressive ten-day stretch for the Knicks. Amare is earning his max contract, Felton has surpassed all expectations bestowed upon him, and Fields is rapidly becoming my favorite Knick. You want to talk about talent evaluation? A diamond in the rough has been discovered…a solid day in and day out contributor who will continue to find ways to help this team win. And you know what the best part about it is? Isiah had absolutely nothing to do with it!
How much fun is it watching the Miami swelter from all the Heat they have been getting? Erik Spoelstra is on the chopping block (although he shouldn’t be). James and Wade have no idea how to play alongside one another, and they truly get dominated night-in and night-out by the opposing big man. They have lost four of five, and are truly in a state of disarray. You know what’s incredible? Last year the Miami Heat were 47-35 and nobody had anything but positives things to say about Spoelstra…he did a fine job with that group of guys. He can’t go on the floor and play with passion and fire. That is what is lacking from this Heat group right now. They have no intensity, no leadership and no depth. Jeff Van Gundy put it perfectly. The Heat are relying on Eddie House, James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony…these guys would be ninth and tenth guys off the bench on the Celtics, Magic, Spurs, Lakers, or any other successful championship contender. It will be interesting to see the direction of this team in the next couple of weeks. Especially with a very intense Thursday night match-up with the Cavs looming.
Kudos to Jim O’Brien for getting the Pacers on the right track…the Pacers have won three of four including an impressive road victory over the Lakeshow last night in LA. They have nice scoring balance, and an emerging star in Roy Hibbert. Hibbert is in his third season and is averaging 16 points and a shade under 10 boards a game. In my opinion he is the early frontrunner for the most improved player award.
- Knicks Top Pistons 125-116 In Double Overtime (newyork.cbslocal.com)