The 76ers spoiled Carmelo Anthony's "homecoming" to Syracuse on Monday, defeating the Knicks 98-90 while delivering the team its third loss of the preseason.
As they've done throughout the preseason, the Knicks had major defensive letdowns and allowed their opponent to go on multiple runs to pull away. New York attempting to play catch-up late in the contest never seems to be enough.
But the preseason isn't about winning or losing. Perhaps the letdown on defense can be attributed to the team not playing at full strength with a lineup they'd normally put forth to compete. Despite not playing with Amar'e Stoudemire, who will be out two to three weeks nursing a knee injury, the Knicks received positive signs from a couple of players who will have to step up in his absence.
Anthony's return to Syracuse started off with a bang as he attacked the basket aggressively in the first quarter. He muscled his way inside against defenders, powering the ball in the hole as he got fouled. His hesitation to do so aside, the fact is Anthony thrives playing in the "power forward" position, able to dominate offensively. He finished with 23 points against Philly.
Though he originally wanted to embrace being more of a "team-player," Anthony will have to carry the Knicks in STAT's absence.
But at least this season, it doesn't appear as though he'll have to do it alone. After some great vision as a floor general of his new squad the last couple of contests, Raymond Felton's potential to lead and organize the Knicks' offense looked promising.
And after proving he can still run the offense effectively, Felton showed last night that he still has the ability to be a reliable option when it comes to scoring the ball as well. Though he struggled to knock down a consistent mid-range jumper early, the point guard charged back later in the game, scoring 23 total points while also knocking down a total of five daggers from long range. He'll certainly be able to handle being a number two option on offense behind Anthony, as he was to Stoudemire during his first Knickerbocker stint.
As depleted as the Knicks were last night due to injuries, Coach Mike Woodson distributed minutes last night to players worthy of logging time in the rotation. With the preseason coming to a close, players like James White, Pablo Prigioni, and Steve Novak ate up major minutes off the bench Monday night, rather than the training camp invitees.
Except for Chris Copeland, that is. Due to his stellar play and injuries to others on the Knicks' roster, Copeland appears the only invitee to be a lock to make the team. He continued impressing last night, pouring in 15 points of his own as Coach Woodson rewarded him with 26 minutes.
Despite the squad's many injuries this preseason, the Knicks are learning which lineups (filled with which contributors) will help them adjust during the upcoming season. It's good to see certain players emerging and proving they can handle being relied upon.
As a side note, Ronnie Brewer logged 15 minutes in his preseason debut for the Knickerbockers, who will close up their preseason with a matchup against the Nets on Wednesday night.