WHAT IT MEANS: The Knicks basically got an extra scrimmage in on Friday night to prepare for the Miami Heat on Sunday, thumping the lowly Washington Wizards, 103-65. It was the fewest points scored by a Knicks' opponent since the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 13, 2008 (the final score was 89-65).
On offense, the Knicks finished with 14 3-pointers, while the Wizards only had four.
With the win, the Knicks are now the seventh seed in the playoff picture, moving ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers who lost to the New Jersey Nets tonight, 95-89. Even though the Knicks and Sixers have the same record (31-28), the Knicks own the tiebreaker. They are now three games back of the Boston Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown.
DIFFERENCE MAKER: Defense, as usual. Since Mike Woodson took over the the team on March 14, the Knicks have been holding opponents to 90.3 points per game -- third-best during that span. Tonight, they held the Wizards to only 13 first-quarter points, and only one period (the second) to 20 points or more.
THE GOOD: 1. Carmelo Anthony's hot streak. Since March 26, when Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire became inactive due to injuries, Melo has been stepping up his game. Entering Friday, he was averaging 30 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 80 percent from the foul line. Tonight, he could've finished with more than 30, but the Knicks didn't need it. He had 18 points on 8-for-17 shooting through basically 2½ quarters.
2. Baron Davis' big game. On his 33rd birthday, he had his best game as a Knick, scoring a season-high 18 points. Let's face it, the Wizards are a struggling team that suffers on defense. But Davis did appear to gain some explosiveness driving to the basket -- something he mentioned he had been missing lately -- and was catch-and-shoot money from downtown (4-for-5).
3. Points in the paint. The Knicks took advantage of the undersized Wizards and had 30 points in that area on the court by the end of the third quarter. The Wizards only had 16 at that point.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: Actually two. Anthony had two buzzer-beating, close-range shots to end the first and second quarters.
THE BAD: Iman Shumpert sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and did not return. This is definitely something to keep an eye on heading into Sunday's matchup against the Heat. Shumpert's defense will be especially needed against Dwyane Wade, just like it was against Chicago Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose in last Sunday's Knicks win.
WHAT'S NEXT: A meeting with sports' biggest rock band: the Miami Heat, featuring Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Even though they're still the second seed in the East, they haven't been putting on their best performances against the top defensive teams this month, losing to the Grizzlies, Bulls and Celtics twice. Well, defense has been name of the game for the Knicks since March 14.
The strong defenses have been breaking up the Heat's team offense and forcing them to play more isolation ball through James and Wade. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has been most concerned with his guys losing their identity during the season, especially considering the star talent they have, and that's been the root of their problem lately. The Knicks will need to keep exposing it on Sunday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m. ET on ABC.
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