WHAT IT MEANS: On the same court Carmelo Anthony helped lead Team USA to the gold medal last summer, he scored a game-high 26 points to carry the Knicks to victory over the Pistons.
It all started in the first quarter when Melo put in 11 points -- his season average is just above nine -- and the Knicks outscored the Pistons 29-17. The Knicks hadn't won the opening period in their past five games and their previous seven losses.
The Knicks improved to 25-13 and remain second in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Heat.
KNICKS' GAME BALL GOES TO ... While Anthony had 26 points, Iman Shumpert's impact in his first game of the season gives him the nod. Right at the jump, he was active on defense. Mike Woodson has wanted to see better early defense leading to good offense, and Shumpert's defensive intensity set the tone for the Knicks. Offensively in the opening period, Shumpert hit a baseline corner 3-pointer off a feed from Anthony -- his first points of the season. Also in the first quarter, he almost threw down a vicious one-handed dunk in traffic.
At top of the third quarter, Shumpert got the Knicks rolling a second time. He nailed a 3 from the baseline corner (from Melo again), stole the ball and took it in for a fast-break layup, attacked off the dribble and delivered a bounce pass to Tyson Chandler for a dunk, and drove down the baseline and drew a foul.
In 15 minutes, Shumpert had eight points, two rebounds, one steal and one block. His only negative was that he missed two free throws.
The Knicks' second unit struggles to get the ball moving and score in the third quarter, which may provide a great opportunity for Shumpert to facilitate with that group. As one scout put it, "Shumpert and J.R. Smith will give opponents hell off the bench." If not, Shumpert could work well as the starting small forward when Raymond Felton returns, and Jason Kidd could slide back to the 2.
BIG PIECE TO THE PUZZLE: Keeping to one of Woodson's favorite phrases, Amar'e Stoudemire stepped up big in his eighth game back. At times when the ball seemed to die in the Knicks' offense, Stoudemire did a nice job of knowing when to sink to the basket. His teammates found him, and he got fouled while going up strong inside. He scored a season-high 17 points on a game-high 11-for-12 free throws. He also hit a couple of jump shots. Where he still has to improve is his defense and moving his feet better. He was called for five fouls.
TO THE FILM SESSION: The Knicks turned the ball over 16 times and allowed 44 points in the paint. They scored just 22 in the paint themselves. With no Marcus Camby or Rasheed Wallace for a while, their biggest weakness looking ahead will be how they guard the interior.
WHAT'S NEXT: A final, highly anticipated showdown with the Nets on MLK Day at 3:30 p.m. ET. While the Knicks still have an edge over most of the East, the Nets have climbed back toward the top, going 8-2 in their past 10 games.
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