He may not have made the shot, but JR Smith is crossing people up as if he’s still playing in China.
I might be kicking myself later for blogging this prematurely, but Melo’s back! Melo looked a lot like his old self last night, scoring 25 points in 26 minutes on 9-15 shooting, despite visibly fighting through a pesky groin injury. However, this just leads me to believe two things.
1) Melo plays a lot better when he is the one and only go-to option on the team (ie. His role on the Denver Nuggets). I can see how this makes sense because when you have other people on the floor who are capable of taking over a game, you either start to second guess your next steps in order to factor them in or are more likely to defer to them. Also, you can’t disregard the fact that Melo is a high profile athlete who loves to be in the spotlight and have the game on his shoulders.
2) Melo sees this opportunity with Lin and Amare out to redeem his reputation as the “Linsanity/Coach Killer” that was tagged on him the days following his comeback from injury. He wants to prove everyone wrong and get back on the good graces of Knick fans.
If you read my blogs, you know that I have been a huge fan of Iman Shumpert’s game so you can only imagine how happy I was to see the way he played last night. He had a career night: 25 pts (4-10 from downtown), 7 rebs, and 4 assists. Not only was his stat sheet impressive, but he took over on both ends of the court which is mainly why I’m such a fan of his game. It is beautiful to see how he transitioned from that rookie who got hurt on opening night to the developed player that he is today. At times when there were lulls in last night’s game, he seemed to take over like a veteran would and seldom seemed out of control anymore. Probably my favorite trait of Shumpert is his ability to be a self-starter without relying on his teammates. Whether up 20 or down 20, he never fails to display his enthusiasm on defense which is usually contagious enough to get the rest of the team going. He will stay low to the ground and pester your ball handle, viciously fight through screens (he drew three illegal screen calls on the Magic last night), and hustle for loose balls. His energy is exactly what the Knicks need.
So it seems that Coach Woodson has the full respect and undivided attention of the Knicks players now. As a result, the Knicks are playing like a completely different team, so much that they are catching teams who played them pre-coaching change (ie. Milkwaukee) off guard since they are getting completely different looks on offense. The Knicks have averaged 86 points allowed since Woodson took over! Then you have teams like Orlando who seemingly underestimated the crippled Knicks “JV team” and started playing with a sense of urgency too little, too late. With two games this upcoming weekend, the Knicks will have to fend off a vengeful Atlanta Hawks and hopefully steamroll past the Cleveland Cavaliers with an easy win.