The Knicks broke the single-season record for most 3-pointers in a season, which was held by the 2009-10 Magic (841). The Knicks now have 844. While the Knicks led at one point 23-6 midway through the first quarter, the Bulls, with their defensive pedigree, brought more physicality to the game. That led to some testiness, and three technical fouls were called (one on Carmelo Anthony).
Overall both teams were on offensively. While the Knicks shot 48.9 percent from the field, the Bulls were at 50 percent.
Here are five other main observations at the half:
1. Raymond Felton's aggressiveness. His in the-paint penetration recently has been huge for the Knicks, collapsing the defense and creating easier kick-out opportunities. In the first half, two deep drives led to a 3-pointer by Iman Shumpert and Chris Copeland. His attack mode also helped him explode by Kirk Hinrich for a layup in the opening period. In addition, he was feeling it with his quick release from downtown. He had two 3s in the first half.
2. Feeling the loss of Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. After Anthony started hot from the field, scoring six points in about the first three minutes of the game, he went a bit cold. After finding quick, open shots in the early stages of the shot clock, things got more difficult for him. The Bulls collapsed on him more, and the Knicks' spacing on the court was a bit too constricted at times.
Without Chandler and Martin, the Knicks ware missing their two best screeners to open up the court more for shots in the flow in the offense. In the second quarter, the Knicks' offense was a bit more standstill. The Bulls' improved perimeter defense caught the Knicks a little off guard, but J.R. Smith was able to cope well with the adjustment.
3. Chris Copeland's offensive struggles. While he was 2-for-4 from 3-point range, he missed several shots right at the rim. He also lost the ball once on a move on Carlos Boozer. Copeland started at center, so perhaps the new adjustment to more down-low playmaking got the better of him. On a positive note, he stripped the ball away from Boozer during a post situation in the first quarter, and then on the other end the Knicks forward knocked down a 3.
4. Smith's step-back jumper. His game lately has been mostly attack, attack, attack. But looking like his older self, he knocked down three of these type of shots in the first half. On one possession late in the second quarter, he quickly drove on Jimmy Butler and then went behind his back with the ball, leaving Butler lagging behind to regroup, and the sixth man hit a fallaway J from midrange.
Smith was also 1-for-1 from downtown, and the one shot was historic. It jumped the Knicks ahead of the Magic in the 3-point single-season race.
5. The lack of an inside presence. Obviously with Copeland starting at center, the Knicks were a sore thumb guarding the basket. That allowed Butler to pull down three offensive boards and the Bulls to win the rebounding margin. Overall, the Bulls had four more points in the paint than the Knicks. Smith was their best answer inside in the second quarter.
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