NYK Weekly Report: Melo gets stitches, JR saves the day, Chandler goes beast-mode
I'll give the Knicks a B+ for this week. Sure, beating the reigning champs by 20 on the road without your best player (Carmelo Anthony) is extremely impressive, but they nearly fell asleep for the Charlotte game to allow the upset, and looked sluggish against a Bulls team whose starting guards are Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli. Here are my biggest story-lines and observations from the past week of Knicks basketball:
A revitalized Carmelo Anthony made a valiant leap into the stands to save a possession once again on Wednesday, but this time, the Knicks' best player's act of courage was in vain. Melo never even should have leaped for the ball, as the shot clock was simultaneously winding down to zero and the Knicks would have gotten the ball back regardless. In addition, Melo sliced his finger open and had to get six stitches to sew up the laceration. He missed the end of Wednesday's game, and the next two as well - he had to wear a lot of padding on the injured finger and was having trouble controlling the ball. The Knicks faced impending doom when they tipped off in Miami without Carmelo, but big time performances from Raymond Felton and Steve Novak - along with exceptional team defense - allowed the Knicks to bury the Heat 112-92.
After Carmelo left Wednesday's game against the Bobcats, the Knicks faced a situation in which they would surely have preferred their best player to have the ball in his hands. With three seconds left in the game, the Knicks found themselves tied with the Bobcats, 98-98. Head coach Mike Woodson has designed plays for Carmelo in all of those situations this year, but did not have that luxury on Wednesday. Instead, he designed a play that could go to either Raymond Felton or, surprisingly, JR Smith. I say "surprisingly" because Smith had shot 5-15 with only 13 points on the night, but Woodson is outspoken about his confidence in Smith, one of the league's streakiest shooters. Felton didn't think he had a good look at the hoop, so he deferred to Smith, who hit a high-arching fadeaway shot with the hand of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist right in his face to win the game 100-98 as the clock struck 0:00, giving the Knicks one of the signature plays of their season.
Tyson Chandler kicked his gear into beast-mode last week, absolutely dominating inside the paint. Over the past four games, Chandler has outscored the opponent's starting center by an average of 6.3 points while out-rebounding opposing centers by 6.0 (those opponents include Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah). Chandler also shot 69.7% from the field last week. Something seems to be clicking with him offensively that I haven't seen before, as he has scored in double-figures in nine straight games. If he can keep up his exceptional play, he'll make beating the Knicks very difficult.
Other notes: Carmelo returned to action on Sunday to score 34 points... Jason Kidd is back in the starting lineup after missing time due to back spasms and seems fully recovered... Steve Novak is continuing his solid shooting, making 10 of 24 threes last week... JR Smith is definitely in one of his ruts, as he made only 19 of his 64 shots last week... Rasheed Wallace "tweaked his foot" on Saturday, and his status is uncertain for Tuesday's game against the Nets... Marcus Camby missed his fifth straight game on Sunday with plantar fasciitis... Amar'e Stoudemire looked "tremendous" in a 90-minute workout before Sunday's game, and is targeting a return to the court around Christmas.
This week's Knicks games: Tuesday @ BKN, Thursday vs. LAL, Saturday vs. CLE.