The Knicks didn't look like a completely different team on Friday night after their disastrous loss to the Pacers. They showed more tenacity early on and made some strides defensively down low, but their perimeter defense is still in need of an upgrade. Fortunately for them, Carmelo Anthony was hot down the stretch in the second quarter. He finished the half with a game-high 17 points.
Here are four other main observations at the half:
1. Transition offense. The Knicks entered tonight third worst in the NBA in fast-break points per game (9.1), but in the first quarter they had seven. Raymond Felton (10 points) was explosive in the open court and very aggressive attacking. Also, Anthony and J.R. Smith looked to push the ball, and made plays. The team has been playing at a slower pace during its three-game losing streak, but the Knicks have looked to switch that up against the Raptors.
2. Jason Kidd's defensive liability at shooting guard. Opponents look to go right at the 39-year-old when he's on the court at 2-guard. That's because he can't guard players like Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, who both scored on him in the opening period. Mike Woodson may want to think about adjusting the starting five to get more of a defensive presence early on. Perhaps calling up James White to the 3 for his length and athleticism?
3. Poor defensive awareness. The Knicks got lost on some switches and rotations, leaving the Raptors wide open way too many times beyond the arc. In fact, Kyle Lowry knocked down three 3-pointers in the first period alone. A couple of Raptors possessions made Woodson more livid than usual on the sidelines, motivating him to call timeouts. He went right at Amar'e Stoudemire and Steve Novak, not afraid to tell them how he felt about their poor defense.
4. Offensive fouls. The Knicks had an unusually high number of offensive fouls in the first half. Anthony, Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert were all whistled. The word is out that the Knicks tend to shy away from physical contact, so the Raptors have been right up in their grills. The Knicks need to be more careful controlling their drives after halftime.
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