The Knicks played their best offensive game in a while as they broke from the Magic in the second half on their way to a 113-97 victory last night in Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony set a Knick record of scoring 20+ points in his 30th consecutive game, and Amar’e Stoudemire contiued his great play of late by taking advantage of a bad Magic team. He scored 14 points in 20 minutes of action, and was a perfect 7-7 from the field. Stoudemire has really turned it on the last seven games for the Knicks as he is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 65 percent.
“My work I put in over the summer is paying off now,” said Stoudemire. “I feel great offensively. Defense is my main focus. Offense is going to come over time and experience. Defense is where I am looking to improve.”
The one thing that Stoudemire is never going to help the Knicks with his defense. Stoudemire, who said last month that he was never taught defense his whole career, continued to talk about getting better in that part of his game but it will likely never happen at this point.
While he maybe the worst defender on the team, the Knicks still have no excuses for their lack of guard defense in recent games. At the start of last night’s game, the Magic picked apart the defense of the Knickerbockers scoring points in less than seven minutes of action in the first quarter. The starting back court of JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson was big reason why as the pair combined for 36 of the Magic’s 51 first-half points, and Redick made his first seven shots.
“We have to focus in,” said Tyson Chandler. “I tell guys to continue to challenge them on their shots.
Coach Mike Woodson wasn’t afraid to call out a few of his players for the lack of defensive intensity, including the player who everyone feels is their best perimeter defender.
“I expect everybody to defend,” Woodson said. “I’m not getting that out of ‘Rook’ [Shumpert]. James White I thought started out soft in terms of defending. I mean, it just becomes contagious. It starts out front with the guards. It starts with Raymond, ‘Rook’ and our three in terms of our perimeter. And we just got to get better. We’re playing on our heels.”
The Knicks did bring it defensively in the second half, and that is in large part of the play of Pablo Prigioni. The Argentine born point guard played well with 11 points in 16 minutes. But it was his defense in those 16 minutes that really made a difference as Nelson and the rest of the Magic guards were not able drive toward the basket like they did in the first half.
“That’s what he does,” Shumpert said. “I love being in there with Pablo because when he does that, it’s easy for me to play off somebody like that. How he’s, at the age he is, still doing that, that puts a smile on my face to see him go out and do that.”
In the previous games, the Knicks let Jrue Holliday score a career-high 35 points Saturday in Philadelphia, falling behind by 29 before losing 97-80. The next night they gave up 27 to Jeff Teague, and let the Hawks shoot 60 percent.
“I’ve just got to get [Raymond Felton] to pick up his defense, and help us in that area,” Woodson said.
Felton acknowledges that the defense starts with him and his other back court mates.
“Yeah, there’s been a difference for sure,” Felton said. “There’s been a difference on my end. There’s been a difference on the bigs’ end. We all have to clean it up together as a team.
“The biggest thing [is] just being aggressive from the gate. Once I get back 100 percent to myself, I’m not going to be [allowing that much.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Knicks as they will play the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow night. The Bucks have a great back court tandem of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis so it will be fascinating to see how the team plays defensively on them.