The fortunes of the New York Knickerbockers have suddenly changed thanks to better play and getting plenty of help from the Atlanta Hawks, the team they are chasing for that 8th playoff spot. After a successful West Coast trip, the Knickerbockers showed no tired legs on Wednesday night as they manhandled the Brooklyn Nets to a tune of 110-81 drubbing at Madison Square Garden.
“Our guys are hungry," said Coach Mike Woodson. "Normally anybody that comes off the West Cloast..that game getting back is tough game. Our guys came out with energy and ready to play. It was a 48 minute performance tonight and we will need that the rest of the way.”
The win has moved the Knickerbockers percentage points ahead of the Hawks for the final playoff spot in Eastern Conference. The way the Knicks had played for most of the season, it's seems crazy that this team would find itself back at this point.
“Anything is possible," said Coach Mike Woodson. " I have never given up hope in terms of our team and the direction where we could go and should be. As a coach you keep pushing buttons and find the right buttons. That is my job as a coach and our players have responded. They want to get the playoffs..that shows a lot about our locker room.
The Knicks have now won 12 of their past 15 and are playing their best basketball when they need to most. Meanwhile, Atlanta is playing their worst basketball of the season as they have lost 21 of their last 27 games to give the Knickerbockers a reason to believe that the playoff spot is theirs.
"It means a lot to know that we are in a dog fight coming towards the end of the season," said Carmelo Anthony. " This stretch is important. I thought that West Coast trip was a real big trip for us to come out with a winning record and to come back and take care of business on our court. It was a good team win. We look forward to the battle coming down the stretch.”
Anthony, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds, had plenty of help as the Knicks rebounded very nicely in their first home game back since the crushing home loss to the Cavaliers 10 days ago. J.R. Smith led the team with 24 points on 6-9 shooting from three-point range. Iman Shumpert had one of his best games in a while with 10 points and a team high of five steals. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 17 points and Amar'e Stoudemire chipped in with 13 points as the team played one of it's better all around games of the season.
The Knicks cruised to a 63-38 lead by halftime, and the Nets made a small run early in third, getting as close as 14. But Pablo Prigioni and Smith knocked down back-to-back threes in an 8-0 run to end the quarter, before the Knicks pulled away in the fourth, extending their lead to as many as 33.
"Our intensity has changed, the way we start games, the way we approach the lead, ” Smith said. “Everybody knows how talented we are on the offensive end. On the defensive end, we’ve been spectacular.”
It was only a month ago that the season of the New York Knickerbockers was considered over and done with. Despite being in a very poor Eastern Conference, the Knicks were 6.5 games behind for a playoff spot with a disappointing 21-40 record. Since that time, they have gone 12-3 and hired Phil Jackson to become the new team president.
“I always believed. I have been saying since the beginning of the year," said Anthony. "One game at a time..It is funny that we have a chance to make the playoffs. We can’t worry about Atlanta. We have to keep winning basketball games. If we play the way we have been playing we have a chance to win basketball games.”
The Knicks have six games left in the season. All six are against teams that over .500 and are headed to the playoffs. Atlanta holds the tiebreaker by virtue of the team's record against Eastern Conference opponents.
“We have to play regardless of who it is," said Anthony. "We don’t make the schedule. Everyone says schedule is not in our favor.. There is nothing we can do about it. Our backs are against the wall right now. We control our own destiny."
“Our guys are hungry. Normally anybody that comes off the West Cloast..that game getting back is tough game. Our guys came out with energy and ready to play. It was a 48 minute performance tonight and we will need that the rest of the way.”