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Thursday, March 1, 2012
Knicks get boost from bench

By Ian Begley

With players like J.R. Smith and Baron Davis in the second unit, the Knicks believe they have one of the deepest teams in the league.

For one night, they went out and proved it.

Davis, sharpshooter Steve Novak and the rest of the Knicks' reserves keyed a run in the third and fourth quarters that sealed New York's win over the Cavs on Wednesday.

The spurt started with 1:39 to play in the third. At the time, the Knicks and Cavs were tied at 79-79.

Davis came in to spell Jeremy Lin and led New York (18-18) on an 18-5 run to put the game away.

AP Photo/Kathy WillensJeremy Lin and the starters were energized by the play of Baron Davis, J.R. Smith and the second unit.


Novak had nine of his 17 points in that span.

To the 33-year-old Davis, it was a glimpse of how strong the Knicks' second unit can be.

"It really gave us a snap shot of our depth," he said. "… And I think we can get a whole lot better."

Depth is key in this lockout-shortened 66-game season. And it will also be pivotal in the playoffs.

Particularly so for the Knicks, who'll have to navigate through a tough second-half schedule.

"I think to be as good as we want to be we have to have a good bench," Novak said after thrilling the Garden crowd by scoring 17 points in 17 minutes.

For much of the season, you could point to the Knicks bench as a weakness. Simply put, New York lacked a sixth man -- or a seventh or eighth man, for that matter. Aside from Iman Shumpert and, at times, Josh Harrellson, they had little firepower.

But then the Knicks signed J.R. Smith. And Baron Davis returned from a lengthy absence due to a back injury.

In addition, Novak emerged as a perimeter threat after Lin started running the show.

"Jeremy really started that and made it easy on everybody to be comfortable and be themselves," Novak said. "It's been important."

Novak helped the Knicks rebound from a 17-point first-half deficit on Wednesday with five threes in the second half.

"When he's shooting the ball, it's fun to watch," Carmelo Anthony said.

Novak made the noise on Wednesday, but Shumpert (12 points, three steals) and Smith (nine points) also chipped in. In all, the Knicks got 50 points from their reserves.

D'Antoni was asked after the game if what he saw Wednesday was the "best-case scenario" for his bench.

"We hope that is a normal-case scenario," the coach said.

If the Knicks have hopes of making a deep playoff run, it may have to be.