Monday, February 28, 2011

Knicks use defense to beat Heat

(photo courtesy of

I've been writing a lot about the Knicks lately, but I think it's been fair. They made a blockbuster trade at the deadline and Sunday was their first test against a contending team. After losing to the last-place Cavs on the road Friday, they got to travel to Miami.

The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony on both ends, which I never thought I would say. He had 29 points and 9 rebounds and shot 10-for-22, but it was his play on the other end down the stretch that helped the Knicks finish on a 13-2 run. His offense has never been in doubt.

The real question is: Will Anthony improve his defense now that he's playing in New York? Amar'e Stoudemire did it and if Anthony is also now defensively motivated, he has the physicals tools to be a solid defender.

Anthony held LeBron James in check for the final three minutes as the Knicks came back and while James was able to get a shot towards the rim, Anthony stayed in the play the entire way to affect the shot and allow Stoudemire to help and block it.

We all know what these two guys can do on offense, although Stoudemire has seen his scoring drop since Anthony's arrival. Like James and Dwayne Wade did early in the season, these two will get used to playing with each other. And if that happens on both ends the Knicks can contend, especially with a proven playoff performer in Chauncey Billups manning the point.

Billups lived up to his "Mr. Big Shot" nickname last night, burying a long three when Wade sagged inside the arc to put the Knicks up one with a minute left. Also not known for his defense, Billups' steal on the next possession led to two Shawne Williams free throws and a 87-84 lead the Knicks would never give back.

Williams may be the most important Knick outside of their top three and Landry Fields, as he is New York's best outside shooter with Danilo Gallinari gone. At 6-9 he can play meaningful minutes at power forward and rebounds and defends the position well, something else the Knicks need.

The pedigree is there for the former first-round pick and with 25-30 minutes a night, he could get the chance to turn into this team's fifth starter instead of Ronny Turiaf. He only made one of four shots and grabbed three rebounds last night but was plus-four in his 28 minutes on the court.

I do think the Knicks need another shooter and another big man and Troy Murphy might fit the bill. He would provide a solid rebounder alongside Stoudemire, who leaves a little to be desired on the glass considering his size. Much like Williams, Murphy can also step behind the arc and stretch the court, which is key for the Knicks when Anthony posts down up low.

Split Murphy's and Williams' minutes at power forward and spell Stoudemire with Turiaf and you will never have to use Shelden Williams in a game again. One player I would like to see get another chance is Anthony Carter, because more minutes at shooting guard for Toney Douglas is always a good thing.

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