With the kind of physical defense Mike Woodson has been harping on, the Knicks battled back to take the lead 35-34 with 4:38 remaining in the second quarter on a Carmelo Anthony jumper.
Here are several observations at the half:
1. The Knicks' perimeter rotations look sharper. On Friday, the Bulls' guards got in the paint way too easily, making plays all over the court. That didn't happen as much in the first half on Sunday. The Hornets, who entered Sunday seventh in the league in 3-point percentage (37.5), shot 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half. Eric Gordon was 1-for-6, and Ryan Anderson, the Hornets' best outside shooter and leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, was 0-for-4. The Hornets had only a few clear looks at the basket from distance.
2. Chris Copeland's hot start. The rookie shot 3-for-4 from downtown in the first quarter, and he had a fast-break layup from Jason Kidd toward the end of the period. Copeland's 11 points represented basically the entire Knicks offense early on. Anthony had two points on 1-for-8 shooting in the first quarter.
Anthony appears to be taking tougher shots with hands in his face, such as three turnaround shots down the baseline in the first half. The Hornets have been throwing multiple bodies at Melo when he attacks the paint, and he hasn't been able to finish inside consistently. That went for many of the Knicks. Fortunately in the second quarter, when the ball started to move better, Anthony found his touch on quick-release jump shots. In the first half, he finished with 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting.
3. Kidd's half-court struggles continue; Pablo Prigioni steps up. In the first quarter, Kidd had only three points and two turnovers. He wasn't able to convert with Tyson Chandler in pick-and-rolls, primarily because the point guard was making passes near the perimeter. He wasn't getting deep-drive penetration and collapsing the defense. Instead, the Hornets were able to stick more to Chandler.
Kidd is better suited in a shooting guard role at this point in his career. When J.R. Smith checked into the game, he was given more of the point guard duties, and he found Kidd for a 3-pointer.
On a positive note, Kidd did have four assists, coming mostly in transition, finding Copeland twice for a 3 and layup. Kidd does a nice job of pushing the pace when he receives passes after defensive rebounds. In addition, Prigioni provided a huge boost off the bench with his extra gear and tenacity. Not only did he finish twice on the fast break, but he also was able to get the ball moving better with his deeper penetration and pick-and-roll playmaking. Anthony was able to get some easier shots without having to dribble.
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