Thursday night's Knicks vs. Heat game is the one everyone keeps talking about. Stars will collide as LINsanity soars into Miami, attempting to send the Knicks into the All-Star break on a high note.
But before the well-hyped game, the Knicks had other business to take care of in the form of a matchup vs. the Hawks at home. Catching a break, the absence of Joe Johnson for the Hawks was surely to make things a little easier for the Knicks.
JJ or no JJ, no one would have guessed things would have been that easy.
Capitalizing on a sloppy game by the Hawks early on, the Knicks took control of the contest and never looked back. The Hawks' offense looked stagnant and confused, unable to connect on passes and furthermore, simply allowing the Knicks to take the ball away from them time and time again. Five Hawks committed three turnovers or more as the team fell to 6-9 since point guard Kirk Hinrich returned to the floor.
J.R. Smith led his Knicks' defensive charge against the Hawks with an impressive five steals. Of course, good defense often leads to solid offense. This was certainly the case Wednesday.
Though Smith did add 12 points of his own, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak scored 17 points apiece to lead the Knicks to a 99-82 victory. Helping his team bounce back from a frustrating loss to the Nets on Monday, Lin dished out 9 assists as he found his teammates for easy buckets.
With the Knicks' rotation almost at full strength (Baron Davis and Smith are playing, and rookies Josh Harrellson and Iman Shumpert are set to return after the all-star break), the team is beginning to get a sense of what they are truly capable of.
With Lin running the point, things just appear much simpler. The young floor general also helped Landry Fields hit all the right spots on the court, on his way to scoring 16 points as well.
What's more, as Fields looks to attack the basket to convert on passes from Lin, he has also been raking up the rebounds too. This should remind fans much of the way Fields played last season. Following a double-double performance Monday, Fields added seven boards.
Also worth noting in the Hawks-Knicks matchup was the play of Baron Davis, who appeared in just his second game as a Knick. Getting a little more burn than he did in his debut, Davis played 14 minutes, dishing out 6 assists and grabbing two steals, despite committing 5 turnovers and missing all three of his shot attempts. All things considered, this should be recognized as a positive outing for Davis, who has been off the basketball court for nine months.
Clearly, he needs time to adjust, not only to playing with brand new teammates, but also to re-acclimate himself to play full speed basketball once again. His six assists signaled he was actively looking for his teammates on offense, often connecting with them for solid shots. His court vision will prove to be invaluable for the Knicks, who obviously ride and die with their floor generals.
As Davis finds a rhythm with his teammates, the amount of turnovers will gradually come down. Even if B-Diddy continues to struggle early on, those who are panicking can look to New York's 6-1 record when Lin commits six turnovers or more as a means of calming their nerves.
The Knicks won this game due to an all around strong effort from the team as a whole. That said, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony combined for 22 points in the victory. Though that's not ideal production, their lack of scoring proved the Knicks can still rise above to produce wins.
With a much fuller rotation in the weeks to come, the team has an array of different options to go to on offense to get necessary scoring. This will take pressure off the stars, as they won't always need to rack up the points in order for the Knicks to win. Wednesday night proved this quite well.