Oh, just how much things can change in only a matter of days.
Following last Wednesday's embarrassing 118-110 loss at home to the Bobcats, the Knicks were looked at as the laughing stock of the city. Fans were certainly not pleased, pointing to extremes as solution to the team's early season struggles, suggesting Coach Mike D'Antoni be fired.
Fast-forward five days, and things are more or less back to normal, with no one calling for the head coach's head anymore...not just yet, anyway. The Knicks' season has absolutely had its ups and downs early on, but for now, people appear content.
The team bounced back from an ever so discouraging 2-4 start to even their record, and now the guys in orange and blue have a chance at redemption as the Bobcats return to the Garden for the second time in less than a week.
The advantage the Knicks will have entering tonight's game is that the difficulties they encountered against the Bobcats are still fresh in everyone's minds. That said, there is no reason as to why these same struggles should repeat themselves.
The Knicks cannot not allow Bobcats' big man and former D'Antoni disciple Boris Diaw to score in so many ways yet again. Diaw torched them on Monday for 27 points, beating defenders, stepping inside and out, knocking down an array of shots from all over the court. Having scored double-figures only one other time since the new year began, it is imperative the Knicks do not fall victim to a not-so-potent offensive option like Diaw pouring in the points.
Because the Knicks were in fact able to score as many as 110 points in their last matchup with Charlotte, it is clear scoring will not be a problem. Instead, winning the rematch and avoiding another demoralizing loss will continue to come down to defense.
In return for allowing him to start yet another game (as opposed to being pushed to the bench like his backcourt mate Toney Douglas), Landry Fields must look to reward the coaching staff's confidence in him with a solid performance on defense. The Bobcats' Gerald Henderson also hurt the Knicks last week, almost entirely in part due to Fields' spotty defense.
The Knicks' sophomore guard is in the starting lineup specifically to provide a certain defensive presence amongst the team's offensive firepower. If he is not seen pulling his weight, Fields could find himself relegated to the bench sooner than later. His opportunity to re-prove his worth will come as soon as tonight as he looks to contain Henderson, who scored 24 points in Monday's Bobcats win.
Fields' new starting backcourt mate, rookie Iman Shumpert, will have his hands full while attemping to throw off opposing point guard D.J. Augustin, who converted 10 assists (while committing no turnovers), in addition to his 14 points last week. The Knicks can only hope Shumpert's rapid-fire quickness will be enough to force Augustin into rushing his passes and making bad plays on offense.
The Knicks will have to worry about all of this while not fully relying on Carmelo Anthony's production (he scored 32 points in last week's loss). Anthony has been plagued with lower back pain, and though he will be ready to go tonight, the team cannot expect him to carry them all the way to victory tonight. He only added 13 points in Saturday's win against the Pistons.
The team will hope Amar'e Stoudemire can effectively step in to provide a dominant scoring presence tonight, after having played second-fiddle to 'Melo early on this season.
In any event, the team has plenty of options who can step up and fill any voids offensively. No worries there. On the contrary, it will be a strong defensive outing all around that potentially wins the game for the Knicks tonight.