Sans Kidd, Knicks share ball early and often
December, 1, 2012
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
Anthony Gruppuso/US PresswireCarmelo Anthony looks to pass against Trevor Ariza in the first quarter of Friday's win over the Wizards.Jason Kidd wasn't in uniform for the Knicks on Friday.
But his fingerprints were all over New York's win over the hapless Wizards.
The Knicks passed the ball with precision and purpose against Washington, finishing with 24 assists on 43 makes and shooting 53 percent from the floor.
"The ball moved freely," Mike Woodson said.
And who led the way?
Anthony had three first-quarter assists to put the Knicks in a sharing mood, as they built a nine-point first quarter lead en route to a 108-87 victory.
"Tonight, it was contagious, from both units," Anthony said after putting up 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes. "It started early."
On the Knicks' first possession, Anthony found a cutting Ronnie Brewer backdoor for a layup.
Midway through the first, Anthony drew what seemed like all five Wizards into the paint and found an open Brewer behind the arc for a made three. On the Knicks' next possession, he hit a wide-open J.R. Smith for another three-pointer.
Kidd would have been proud.
"That's what we have to do," Woodson said after the Knicks improved to 6-0 at home for the first time since 1992.
The Knicks have played three games without Kidd, 39, who is sidelined with lower back spasms.
In their first game without Kidd, the Knicks struggled to move the ball in an overtime loss to the Nets.
Seventy percent of their offense came from two players (Anthony and Tyson Chandler) and they finished with as many assists (14) as Nets point guard Deron Williams.
On Wednesday against Milwaukee, it was a different story.
Thanks in part to Pablo Prigioni, the Knicks moved the ball with ease. Prigioni finished with a career-high seven assists and helped spur the Knicks to a decisive 35-point second quarter against the Bucks.
And the 35-year-old rookie was at it again on Friday. He finished with eight points and five assists -- one of which was a beautiful 35-foot alley-oop to J.R. Smith (20 points, six assists) that Smith finished with a reverse dunk.
"He just knows how to play," Woodson said of Prigioni. "When you're a point guard and you're pass-first, shoot second, you're teammates love it …. He does everything as a point guard that I like and that's why he's here."
Here's something else Woodson likes: Prigioni finished the game without a turnover.
The Knicks turned it over just seven times against Washington, improving their league-leading assist to turnover ratio of 1.70.
"That's the key to winning games," Raymond Felton said.
It also helps when you have Anthony on your side.
Melo entered play with a career scoring average of 27.1 per game against Washington.
And he could have easily gotten there Friday. But he sat out the final 16 minutes after helping the Knicks build a 15-point lead late in the third.
Plus, he didn't need to get 27 on Friday.
He'd done enough damage by sharing the ball, the latest indication that Anthony's evolved into a more complete player this season.
"I'm in very good space right now, I'm in a good place mentally, physically and emotionally," he said. "I'm not dealing with trades, the lockout … anything like that. Right now, I'm in a great place."