The Knicks went down 10-3 early in the first quarter, but then Amar'e Stoudemire checked into the game with 5:10 to play. His finishing ability helped his teammates go on a 22-9 run to close out the first quarter, and they led 25-22. The team continued their strong play in the second quarter to give them a giant halftime lead.
Here are three main observations at the half:
1. Transition offense. This was the Kings' early poison, as they caused two Knicks' turnovers and then converted on the fast break. The Knicks, once again, came out flat to start the game, and the Kings not only beat them in transition, but also in the halfcourt with backdoor cuts and more aggressive drives to the basket. The Kings' early lead, in fact, encouraged the Knicks' crowd to boo.
Perhaps the Knicks found some motivation from the Newtown community in attendance, because they turned things around -- in a huge way -- toward the end of the first quarter through the second. In fact, the Knicks went on a 29-2 run, facilitated by their defense, which turned into effective transition offense.
J.R. Smith (10 points) got things going with a steal and two defensive rebounds, pushing the ball each time to lead to a score from Stoudemire (13 points), who didn't miss in the first half. He had five baskets in the paint and an outside jumpshot.
2. Carmelo Anthony's passing. Melo only had two points in the first half -- the Knicks didn't need him to score -- but he had five assists. One time, he found Stoudemire on a breakaway for a one-handed dunk. In two other possessions, he made a heads-up skip pass to Smith for a 3-pointer, and then attacked and dished to Smith for another 3. In the second quarter, he picked up his fifth assist with a pass to Jason Kidd for a 3-pointer.
While Melo is in jeopardy of scoring under 20 points -- the last time was on Nov. 15 against the Spurs (nine points) -- his Knicks are rolling, shooting 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from downtown in the first half. Steve Novak was 4-for-4 (12 points). The Knicks' single-game high this season is 19 3s in a game, which they reached on opening night against the Heat.
3. Pablo Prigioni's playmaking. On the very first Kings' possession of the second quarter, Prigioni's full-court, ball-hawking defense forced Jimmer Fredette to get called for an offensive foul. Later in the period, he swiped the ball right out of Chuck Hayes' hands and knocked down a 3-pointer on the other end. In seven minutes, he had three points, two steals and an assist to Iman Shumpert for a 3-pointer.
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