During their loss to the Hawks on Friday night, the Knicks reminded the masses that without an efficient point guard, their offense can hit a major wall, becoming utterly stagnant.
On Saturday, the team learned just how long they'll have to cope with such a dilemma, as it was announced that Jeremy Lin will undergo knee surgery and is expected to miss a minimum of six weeks. Such a timeline would only enable him to return during the second round of the playoffs (should the Knicks be able to advance to that point).
With Lin out and Amar'e Stoudemire also sidelined for the next couple of weeks, even making the post-season may prove difficult enough for this team to do.
Though the Knicks did manage to come away with a 91-75 victory over the Cavaliers last night, the win was in no way as decisive down the stretch as the score might suggest.
The team's offense continued to appear handicapped without Lin. Not only does (the minutes capped) Baron Davis lack the same agility and aggression Lin has, but he also fails to get his teammates involved effectively. This has been evident in the recent struggles of players like Steve Novak and Landry Fields (both shot 2 for 8 from the field last night), whom both seemed to flourish as Lin them in good spots on the court.
With the offense clearly not at full strength, the Knicks once again relied upon their defensive effort to propel them to victory. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert both led the charge with five steals apiece as the Knicks pestered the Cavs into a 39% shooting performance from the field. Cavaliers guard Lester Hudson, currently playing on a 10-day contract, missed all five of his shots from down town as Cleveland also shot an atrocious 15% from three-point range. As a result of their strong outings, Smith and Shumpert both led the Knicks in plus/minus for the night (+19 and +18, respectively), as both proved to be quite efficient.
After pouring in back-to-back 25 point performances, Shumpert's offense fell off last night, as he converted on just three of twelve shots from the field, good for only 10 points. Luckily for him and the Knicks, Smith was able to pace the team offensively as well. Though the Knicks weren't able to put the Cavs away early on, Smith led a fourth-quarter charge, scoring 12 of his 20 points in the final period to help his team secure the victory. Also grabbing nine rebounds, the former Nuggets guard recorded his second-highest totals of the season in both points and rebounds. The five steals were in fact a season-high, clearly putting a stamp on what was Smith's best performance as a Knick.
Carmelo Anthony also added 19 points in the win, shooting a strong 50% from the field. Tyson Chandler contributed 14 points of his own as he shot 8 for 11 from the free throw line. During Lin and Stoudemire's absences, the Knicks will certainly be looking for elevated offensive production from different sources along the way. Various players will be expected to step up, and Chandler looks to be a prime candidate. Look for the Knicks to capitalize on his physicality and feature him more offensively during the season's final month.
After playing 8 games in just 11 days, the banged up Knicks finally receive a break, not playing again until Tuesday night vs. the Pacers.