Heading into the second half of the season, the Knicks are surely poised to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
With a nearly full roster, new additions and rehabbed players included, New York's depth is substantial enough to keep the pace with just about anyone in the league. Truly 1 through 12 deep, the Knicks' roster is now immersed with players who would make an impact in any rotation. With so much talent, the time is now to build the momentum and work towards a solid finish to the season.
Despite resting up during NBA All-Star Weekend, the Knicks came out the gate for their game against the Cavaliers on Wednesday looking exhausted, on tired legs, and exuded little to no effort on defense.
Though the Knicks looked (at the very least) capable on offense in the first half, there was still little flow. The ball was moving, and a few shots fell, but the team lacked the true continuity that has propelled them in victory in the past. Jeremy Lin's aggressiveness was clipped by the Cavs' defensive pressure at the top of the key.
The Knicks let the Cavs run them out of the building in the first half. The opponent shot around 53% from the field in the first half, sinking shots as badly as they were sinking the Knicks.
As noted, the Knicks had a couple of players with 8 points or more heading into the half, but no player was able to execute and take over the game to keep them afloat.
Unacceptable. Such an effort (or lack there of) on both ends of the court by the Knicks is simply unacceptable. And Tyson Chandler, an NBA champion with the Mavs last season, let his team know at halftime.
Chandler's pep talk served as a severe wake up call for the Knickerbockers. Funny thing was, Chandler wasn't exactly on the court as his team rolled out what was potentially their best comeback effort of the season.
Coach Mike D'Antoni, with the new array of depth at his disposal, turned completely to his second unit for a Knicks comeback.
Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, J.R. Smith, and Jared Jeffries all took the court for the Knicks towards the end of the third quarter, and continued to spearhead a comeback much throughout the fourth.
Clearly motivated, the team's second unit displayed the type of fluidity on offense the team had been lacking. What's more, the defensive effort was sound as they applied pressure, flustering the Cavaliers enough to take a lead. And then they never looked back.
Davis, the former Cavalier and much-expected Knicks' savior up until LINsanity struck, led the charge. He played intelligently, finding his teammates in effective spots over and over again. He dished out 8 assists while committing no turnovers. What's more, though he only finished with 4 points and has thus far lacked the aggressiveness that made him an all-star, he leaped to the basket, alluding a Cavalier guard to lay in a powerful layup. He displayed an aggressive first step that will potentially give the Knicks a much needed boost on offense, should he be able to capitalize on it further.
Though Davis had a breakout game against his former team, the Knicks' biggest hero of the night was Steve Novak, who knocked five field goals from downtown to help carry his team to a 120-103 win. He finished with 17 points in just 17 minutes.
To help secure the victory, the Knicks' starters stepped back onto the court in order to put a stamp on the win. Carmelo Anthony finished with a team-leading 22 points, and Lin had an even more impressive game, scoring 19 points, dishing out 13 assists, and only committing one turnover. Chandler filled up the stat sheet as well, pouring in 13 points while grabbing 15 boards. He powered through on defense as well, blocking 4 shots and swiping three steals.
The Knicks were also elevated by the play of Iman Shumpert, who connected on alley-oops, slamed home electrifying dunks, and distracted the Cavs on defense. He returned from knee tendonitis by scoring 12 points and grabbing 3 steals. For more on Shumpert's return to play, and his thoughts on the Sprite Slam Dunk contest, check out his interview with Knicks Journal.
The Knicks resume play on Sunday in Boston vs. the Celtics.