Last season, the Knicks struggled with their consistency (or lack there of) virtually all season long. Though they teased fans with fun and exciting victories over some of the league's various powerhouses, New York simply couldn't prove steady enough to put away the weaker ones on a nightly basis.
But that was the Knicks of old. The Knicks of old not only lacked a killer instinct on the court, but also any respectful form and/or amount of resiliency when they otherwise appeared down for the count.
On Sunday night, the 2012-13 Knickerbockers took on a Kevin Love-less Timberwolves squad. Despite such an absence arguably stacking the deck in New York's favor, there's a good chance the Knicks of old would have lost anyway, failing to take advantage of an opportunity at hand.
Throughout the early evening contest, the new Knicks showed signs of the Knicks of old. The 290 pound Nikola Pekovic muscled his way inside as he bumped and evaded any defender New York threw his way. The big man not only finished with 21 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, but he paced his team's efforts well enough to give them a lead for much of the game.
Pekovic may have been his team's star on offense, but a collective effort defensively was what helped Minnesota keep Carmelo Anthony down through the middle courters of the contest. The star Knickerbocker missed all seven of his shot attempts in the second quarter, and because of that, his team continued to falter.
The Timberwolves' defense went on to neutralize an array of the Knicks' offensive weapons, and though the score may not have been completely insurmountable, New York looked utterly depleted. Ball movement was stagnant, the defensive effort was less than intense, and frustration was building.
The Knicks of old would have just laid down and allowed this contest to get away from them, fully accepting a losing effort.
But with a new season, has surprisingly and refreshingly enough, come a brand new Knicks team with an even better mentality. This season is different, and so was the team's effort through the rest of the game.
J.R. Smith helped pace New York with stellar play off the bench as his team attempted to claw its way back. Chipping away at what was an 11-point Timberwolves' lead, the Knicks began to get stops on the defensive end and shots to fall on offense towards late in the third quarter into the game's final period. Smith not only added 19 points off the pine, but also set the tone and helped controlled his team's offensive tempo with 7 assists.
The highly-regarded swingman undoubtedly helped the Knickerbockers stay afloat and come within striking distance of Minnesota's ever shrinking lead. It was then when the ever so obvious M.V.P. candidate Carmelo Anthony emerged as a hero.
Anthony got hot, pouring in just under 20 points during the game's final period. What's more, as the momentum swing in the Knicks' favor, the forward scored 11 points during the game's final minute and 54 seconds. He helped his team come away with a 94-91 win.
Just in time for Christmas, Melo, Smith, and the Knicks have an exhilarating accomplishment to celebrate. The comeback win itself was as exciting as they come, but really, such a victory is simply an example of what this entire season has been about for New York.
Coach Mike Woodson has not only instilled a winning mentality in his team, but also a sense of urgency. The players walk onto the court with a killer instinct inside them, and as demonstrated on Sunday night, Woodson doesn't allow them to let go of that until the buzzer sounds. More often than not, victories will continue to come the Knicks' way if they keep bouncing back with this same level of resiliency.