Wednesday, April 3, 2013
W2W4: Knicks at Hawks
By Jared Zwerling
This season, the Knicks are 10-6 in the second game of a back-to-back, which is much better than the NBA's winning percentage in those games (.443). Also in the Knicks' favor is some history: Over the past 18 seasons, the Hawks are just 2-13 against teams that entered the game on a winning streak of at least nine games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Here are three main things to watch for in Atlanta, starting at 7 p.m.:
1. Encore? How special was Carmelo Anthony's performance in Miami? Over the past 50 seasons, only one other player (the Knicks' own Allan Houston) has scored 50 points on the road against the defending NBA champ.
Melo is entering Wednesday night with some extra momentum. The last time he faced the Hawks, on Jan. 27, he went off for 42 points in the Knicks' win. Hawks power forward Josh Smith likely will start on Anthony, which posed an advantage for the Knicks' star in the last matchup. Smith's defense is better-suited for the low post, and Melo took advantage along the perimeter with his deceptive dribbling and quick release, finishing 9-for-12 from 3-point range.
Melo was also unguardable when he ran pick-and-rolls with Tyson Chandler, which happened to be the case several times against the Heat on Tuesday night. The formation combines the Knicks' best inside and outside threats.
2. Raymond Felton's continued aggressiveness. In the first quarter against the Heat, the point guard got rattled by half-court traps and fumbled the ball twice. He was basically a nonfactor offensively for three quarters, but he turned things up at the start of the fourth, facilitating the Knicks' first five offensive plays.
Felton penetrated and found Kenyon Martin inside; penetrated again and dished to Martin for a posterizing dunk on Chris Andersen; nailed a step-back jumper; drove on Norris Cole, bumped him off and knocked down a short jump shot; and then drove again on Cole, drawing a foul. Later in the quarter, Felton got deep into the paint and kicked it out to Anthony twice for 3-pointers. In the end, the PG had nine assists.
The key word to sum up Felton's play, which energized the Knicks to take the final period 24-14: aggressive. It's a word he usually uses to describe how he shifts into a higher gear, and that needs to be Felton in every game. Fewer jump shots, more drives. Take it from J.R. Smith.
3. Iman Shumpert's progression. Entering Tuesday, Shumpert had shot 49.1 percent in March on 3-pointers (26-for-53) -- many of them coming from the baseline corner. Against the Heat, he hit three 3s from that spot.
Last season Shumpert was used more at point guard or as a wing attacker, but this season he's been the starting small forward and finding himself in the baseline corner awaiting kickouts for 3-pointers. The good thing is that he's been knocking them down in the Knicks' space-out sets.
The positioning has helped Shumpert because he hasn't had to work as much offensively throughout the game. As a result of coming back from an ACL repair, he has said his legs sometimes feel heavier as the game goes on. But as the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how Shumpert is used. If the Knicks struggle for offensive balance, which has been the case a few times lately, he may be called upon to score more.