After the Knicks were sunk by the Cavaliers Friday night, many fans were left disheartened by the team's lack of killer instinct against the league's weaker teams.
Looking to bounce back, the team would have to do so without Tyson Chandler, who sat out this afternoon's game against the Hawks in an attempt to rest up with the playoffs near. Ironically enough, not playing may have been all Chandler needed to clinch the NBA's "Defensive Player of the Year" award.
Without the big man pacing their defense, the Knicks allowed the Hawks to shoot 54% from the field (including 63% from downtown) as Atlanta made it rain from all around the court. The Hawks were led by three 20 plus point performances (Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, and Jeff Teague), with Williams' 29 points being a team-high. The offensive outburst from the North Carolina product was an individual season-high as well.
Luckily for the Knicks (as poor as their defensive effort was in spurts), the game became a "anything you can do, we can do better" contest. New York's offense was on point, with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire both playing rather efficiently. Anthony kept up his explosive month of April by scoring 39 points and grabbing 11 boards. The superstar kept the Knicks afloat throughout by hitting big shots down the stretch.
In just his second game back from a back injury, Stoudemire broke out for 22 points of his own. Though STAT struggled to get into a rhythm offensively against the Cavs, he instead used his physicality to aggressively get inside, having his way with the Hawks defense. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
The fact that Stoudemire showed promise and was still able to blossom alongside Anthony's dominating play is an incredibly positive sign for the Knicks. When at his best, Stoudemire completes one of the league's stronger one-two offensive punches with Anthony.
That said, they key to the two of them co-existing on the court will be Stoudemire's ability to thrive while allowing Anthony to do his thing as well. Anthony's play has been enough to keep the Knicks in nearly each and every game down to the final seconds, and that's something Stoudemire should be adding to, rather than taking away from it.
STAT's impressive outing this afternoon was certainly enhanced by Baron Davis' best game as a member of the New York Knicks. Returning from a two-game absence with a stomach bug, Davis hit the hardwood with the knowledge that Mike Bibby elevated the team's play as starter.
Davis, who scored a season-high 18 points against the Wizards last Friday, actually showed flashes of the point guard the Knicks signed him to be. He and Stoudemire seemed to begin developing an effective pick and roll rhythm, excelling on offense. Davis not only knocked down three daggers from downtown on his way to 13 points, but also tied a season-high in assists, dishing out ten dimes.
The offensive onslaught didn't stop there for the Knicks, who were also pleasantly surprised by 18 points from Landry Fields. Finally consistency hitting shots from long range, Fields' point total was his highest since March 9th.
After trading buckets with Atlanta all the way down to the final seconds of the game, the Knicks' defense showed up with the game on the line. Stoudemire went to battle with Williams during the game's final possession, throwing him off enough to help secure a 113-112 victory for New York.
The Knicks, who will have Chandler back for Wednesday's game vs. the Clippers, helped Coach Mike Woodson go home happy with his first victory against his former team.