Less than 24 hours before they play another big game against another big NBA team when they travel to Miami to play the Heat, the Knicks got a much needed blowout victory over a solid Atlanta Hawks team. Granted, the Knicks caught a bit of a break when Hawks' superstar Joe Johnson missed the game with an injury; nonetheless, the victory was huge for several reasons.
1) The Knicks pulled back to .500, and
2) pulled ahead of Boston in the playoff standings, who lost to Oklahmona City 119-104.
3) With Philadelphia struggling in Houston, the Knicks have a shot to trim their deficit in the Atlantic division to three games.
While the chemistry between Jeremy Lin, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire is still a work in progress, the Knicks had a solid team performance against a potential playoff opponent.
New York jumped out early: a Landry Field opening jumper, followed by Lin's layup and Field driving layup with the foul helped the Knicks build an early 7-2 lead. Later with the score tied at 16, it was Anthony who finally made his presence felt when he nailed a basket to give New York an 18-16 lead, a lead they would never again relinquish.
The Knicks went on a 14-0 run after that Anthony basket, including four points from Jeremy Lin, a couple of free throws from J.R. Smith and a three pointer from Steve Novak to give New York a 30-16 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter was more of the same. Anthony's two pointer with an assist by Lin was followed by a 25 foot jump shot by Lin and a driving layup by Stoudemire to push the Knicks lead to 45-27. Landry Fields would add a three pointer of his own, before Lin contributed another layup and two more free throws as New York led 58-31.
Overall Lin was solid yet again. The rookie point guard contributed 17 points and nine assists. He is morphing into a very consistent point guard who can put up a double-double on any given night. As for Anthony, his second game back, was much better. He contributed 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
But more importantly was the play of the Knicks bench. Reduced to few opportunities and plenty of missed shots in Monday's inexplicable loss to the Nets, the Knicks bench stepped up big this time. Fields had 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Steve Novak was once again clutch from around the arch, hitting five three points for 17 points. J.R. Smith added 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Now the Knicks head to Miami for a showdown with LeBron James and the Heat. The Knicks have stood tall against greater competition this year. Beating the Lakers, Mavs and Hawks at home, have been incredible feats. Now they have to prove it on the road in a hostile environment. Once again it's a tall order, but so far the Knicks have been up to the challenge in the Lin era.