Knicks

Schmeelk: Knicks Won’t Win In Playoffs If They Play Like They Did Last Night

J.R. Smith, Steve Novak (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

J.R. Smith, Steve Novak (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
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Sitting in the 400-level seats at the Garden on Tuesday night, I enjoyed every moment of the Knicks’ three-point barrage against the Boston Celtics. But if reporters, fans or the Knicks themselves think they can continue to win basketball games like that, they are out of their minds.

First, the Celtics played some of the worst defense I’ve ever seen them play. It wasn’t only the open three-point shots (of which there were many), but also the times that Tyson Chandler had enough room in the lane off of pick-and-rolls to do a Victor Cruz salsa before going up and dunking the ball. Knicks were open all over the floor. That’s not going to happen often, especially against playoff-caliber teams like the Celtics. In the first round of the playoffs, the Knicks are going to have to play either the Heat or the Bulls, and it won’t be that easy.

Second, even with Boston’s lack of defense, the Knicks will not hit threes like they did last night again this season. The Knicks shot 59% from behind the arc, including a combined 15-of-20 from JR Smith and Steve Novak. Novak might be able to repeat his performance if left open, but JR Smith is not shooting 7-of-10 again. He is a streak shooter and happened to get hot. The Knicks can’t count on that to win basketball games, especially in the playoffs.

What I didn’t like about the game last night was that the Knicks’ offensive barrage led to the team letting down defensively. Besides Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler, who play hard all the time, the Knicks looked lazy on a lot of their rotations. The Celtics shot 54%, got to the free-throw line way too much and Paul Pierce looked like he was 27 again. If the Knicks want to win in the playoffs their defense has to be better, especially when they are scoring well. The Knicks could have very easily lost last night despite shooting 57%.

The Knicks’ offensive outburst has also led to a lot of articles about how the team needs to be careful that Amar’e Stoudemire doesn’t ruin this team’s chemistry when he returns. Time out. Doesn’t everyone remember how the team struggled scoring down the stretch against the Heat and the Bulls when it was Carmelo Anthony or nothing? He still needs help, and with Jeremy Lin out through at least the first round of the playoffs, Amar’e Stoudemire is all this team has in terms of reinforcements.

It might look like this team can win games with Carmelo Anthony pouring in 40 on a regular basis, but it’s not the case. And that isn’t taking anything away from Carmelo Anthony. I’ve criticized him a bunch this year (and deservedly so), but now I’ll give him all the praise he deserves. Right now he is playing like a top five, if not top three player in the league. We always knew he could score, but now he is rebounding, playing defense and making the right pass when the double team comes. His second career triple-double was telling in a couple of ways. First, it shows how one-dimensional he might have been in the past. But more importantly for the Knicks, it shows how his game has grown in the past month. He is a true superstar, and if he maintains this attitude, the trade last year becomes a no-brainer.

But he still can’t do it alone, and the Knicks can’t win the way they did last night. They need to do it with defense, rebounding and an incorporated Amar’e Stoudemire. Otherwise, this little playoff surge will end in nothing more than a first-round fizzle.

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Do the Knicks need a healthy and productive Amar’e Stoudemire to win a playoff series, or can they get by without him? Share your thoughts below…