Tuesday Night Final
NEW YORK KNICKS: Washington Wizards serve up a reality check.
So far in this young season, the Bulls dismantled the Knicks. The Knicks defeated the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers beat the Bulls.
The hope is somewhere in the middle lies the truth about the 2014-15 Knicks.
In the pre-season, the Knicks were not expected to finish as one of the Conference's final 8 teams.
Iman Shumpert in particular got undressed by the Bulls. But, he rebounded to play well against LeBron James, then had a strong game against Charlotte.
In addition to Shumpert's contribution, Amare Stoudemire scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. That's significant in itself.
In addition to Melo's game high 28 points and the team's 2nd victory, the highlight of the Knicks win over Charlotte was Carmelo Anthony scoring the 20,000th point of his career. Melo is the 15th quickest in NBA history to reach that milestone.
However, I suggest he stop talking about last season. Tyson Chandler might have deserved a parting word or two, but Mike Woodson doesn't. Not now.
Woodson said coming in he was going to ride Melo like a mule. Woodson learned during the previous regime, that not feeding Melo's ego (or failing to blindly utilize Dolan's newest toy) got people fired at MSG - see Mike D'Antoni.
True - under Woodson, Melo led the league in minutes played (mule) but, that's the way Melo wanted it. So, you can't demand (or hog) the ball the way he did, then complain this season how wrong things went - not when you were the central figure of the on-court dysfunction.
I'm no fan of Melo. I've made that quite clear over the years. I was never a fan of his game (although he's a scoring machine), and I've never been able to clear the mental image of him sucker-punching Mardy Collins, then running away like a little b**ch.
But I give him a pass because Jim Dolan brought him here, which fit right in with the dysfunctional world he created at MSG.
Yes thing are different now. Of course Phil Jackson has already made a dramatic impact. Of course the atmosphere is different. Welcome into the new era of structure at MSG, and say hello to someone with a plan.
I'm on board with Melo as a Knick, now, only because Phil Jackson is the MSG alpha-male - like Pat Riley/Dave Cheketts and Red Holzman were, once. Coach Fisher is Phil Jackson's guy, unlike how Dolan was Melo's guy regardless of D'Antoni, Woodson, Donnie Walsh or Steve Mills.
I still don't have to like him, but I know he'll be reformed this season, and will now operate within a system (the Triangle offense), or risk being excluded from the next year's media guide.
That's fine with me, as Phil Jackson will bring order to what's been a chaotic and toxic environment, or leave if Jim Dolan pisses him off. I like those terms. It seemingly places Jim Dolan out of sight and out of mind.
On Tuesday night, John Wall, Nene, Paul Pierce, and the Washington Wizards entered Madison Square Garden. They are believed to be top 8 Eastern Conference contenders.
Washington lost to the Miami Heat in their opening game of the season, then won 2 straight.
On the strength of a 32-15 3rd quarter, Washington defeated the Knicks rather handily by a 98-83 final for their 3rd straight victory. Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple led the Wizards with 17 points each, while 4 other players scored in double-digits.
The Knicks were sloppy handling the ball evidenced by 18 turnovers. They also only shot 37% from the field versus 48.8% for the Wizards.
Iman Shumpert led all scorers with 19 points, while Melo was limited to 18 points. They were the only two Knicks to score in double-digits. Amare Stoudemire only scored 6 points, but pulled down a game high 12 rebounds.
J.R. Smith led the bench with 24 minutes. He actually led the Knicks with a scant 4 assists, but only contributed 6 points. The Knicks only had 16 team assists which is not reflective of an effective Triangle. It is obvious then, they miss Jose Calderon.
Meanwhile, if Melo is off, J.R. Smith in particular needs to be on. Another inconsistent season from J.R. Smith will not due. That is why he already is the subject of trade rumors.
In the wider picture, the Knicks showed just how much they struggle when Melo is not on his game, or on the bench for a rest.
Four games into this season, the Knicks have played 3 of the Eastern Conference's top contenders, and so far have a 2-1 record against them.
For the moment however, we're still trying to figure out how they'll stack up.