Rapid Reaction: Knicks 99, Hawks 82
February, 22, 2012
By Jared Zwerling | ESPNNewYork.com
WHAT IT MEANS: After losing two out of their past three games to beatable teams, the Hornets Friday night and the Nets on Monday, the Knicks made sure not to let another easy one get away. Though the Hawks entered Wednesday with a 19-13 record, they were without their two best players, small forward Joe Johnson and center Al Horford.
Displaying a consistent energy level throughout the entire game, something that Mike D'Antoni said was missing Monday night against the Nets, the Knicks put away the Hawks early and ended up winning big, 99-82. The Knicks (17-17) climbed back to .500 for the first time since Sunday's win over the Mavericks. They were led by Jeremy Lin (17 points and nine assists) and Carmelo Anthony (15 points) in the starting five and Steve Novak (17 points; five threes) and J.R. Smith (12 points and five steals) in the second unit.
TURNING POINT: The Hawks led early, 14-12, due to the Knicks' sloppy passing and poor transition defense. Then Lin and Anthony got things going with a couple of buckets. But the Knicks didn't really take over until Baron Davis checked into the game -- a very positive sign because the team needs him to maintain consistency from the first string (established by Lin) to the second. From the 2:09 mark in the first quarter, when Davis subbed for Lin, to the buzzer, the Knicks went on an 8-0 run to close out the period.
From that point on, the Knicks took advantage of the Hawks' soft perimeter defense and slow rotations. By the end of the third quarter, the Knicks had 44 points in the paint, compared to the Hawks' 28. And that energy level was evident in a significant hustle stat: Entering the third period, the Knicks had 15 second-chance points, compared to the Hawks' six. Combining the Knicks' effort and their high shooting accuracy (47.5 percent), they got their first blowout since last Wednesday, when they defeated the Kings, 100-85.
DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks' team defense. This season, the Knicks have made a habit of allowing average power forwards, such as Boris Diaw, Ryan Anderson and Kris Humphries, to go off at the Garden. With Johnson and Horford out tonight, Josh Smith had the opportunity for a big game. But Stoudemire, who was assigned to defend him, and the Knicks limited the Hawks' power forward to only 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting. He came in averaging 16 points per game. The Knicks also limited Hawks point guard Jeff Teague's floor game to prevent him from getting his teammates going. While he had 18 points, he had zero assists. Let me repeat, zero assists.
WHAT'S NEXT: A Thursday night visit to the red-hot Heat, who've won 18 of 21 games and seven straight. Led by -- who else? -- LeBron James (27.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 6.8 apg), Dwyane Wade (22.4 ppg, 4.8 apg, 4.3 rpg) and Chris Bosh (18.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg), the team is averaging 103.8 points per game, which is tied for tops in the league with the Nuggets.
The first time the Knicks faced the Heat this season, on Jan. 27 in Miami, they stayed in the game with a season-high 18 3-pointers. But they had trouble closing because they were missing two key pieces: Anthony, who sat out with an injury, and Lin who was, unbelievably, the last man on the bench at the time.
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