Friday, April 27, 2012
Knicks Push Over Bobcats as They Gear Up For Playoffs
Though the Knicks did not know the identity of their first-round playoff opponent (be it the Bulls or the Heat) heading into Thursday's game vs. the Bobcats, it was safe to assume an intense matchup lies ahead.
Even with the Bobcats hungry to avoid the league's worthy record of all-time, New York still began to segue into full playoff mode, resting Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Baron Davis, and Jared Jeffries. Toney Douglas also sat out the game with an unrelated illness.
With the 76ers' loss Thursday night, a Knicks-Heat playoff series was in fact confirmed. The team's resting players got a head start to begin mentally preparing, but for the rest of the Knicks, there was still other business to be taken care of.
And indeed they did. New York closed out the regular season in strong fashion, defeating the lowly Bobcats by a score of 104-84. Leading the way in limited fashion (only playing the first and third quarters), Amar'e Stoudemire continued to show the utmost of positive signs that he will be 100% for the playoffs, pouring in 21 points. With a ferocious slam that made even the home crowd rumble in awe, STAT further proved he was back in rare form and is ready to go.
J.R. Smith continued his offensive tear off the bench, also scoring 22 points for the Knicks. Steve Novak continued to do what he does best, knocking down an array of shots from deep, contributing 9 points of his own. Receiving yet another start, Iman Shumpert scored 12 points and kept up his solid defensive effort, the same one that will be crucial to the Knicks shutting down Dwyane Wade and the Heat come Saturday afternoon.
By resting some of their key players, the Knicks also gave away to some pleasant surprise performances in the victory. Rookie Josh Harrellson, who displayed promise earlier in the season while filling in for Stoudemire, played well in a rare start, scoring 18 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. His primary backup for the night, Jerome Jordan (still fresh off a couple of dominating performances in the D-League playoffs), scored a career-high 13 points as well.
Despite the bevy of impressive performances, perhaps the most crucial one to take notice of at this point was Mike Bibby's. Filling in for Davis yet again as starting floor general, Bibby dished out a season-high 12 assists while only committing one turnover. With Jeremy Lin out the entire first-round series vs. the Heat, the Knicks should feel relatively confident turning to Bibby in a time of need, should Davis struggle early on. It seems as though Bibby's performance has peaked at the most opportune time of the season.
Nevertheless, the Knicks will go into Saturday all guns blazing as they look to hopefully take control of the Heat early in the series. Game one tips off on Saturday afternoon at 3:30pm EST.