Friday, April 12, 2013
Opening Tip: Big takeaways from streak
By Jared Zwerling
Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: What were the biggest takeaways from the Knicks' 13-game winning streak?
While the Knicks had their NBA-best 13-game winning streak snapped on Thursday night -- the third-longest in franchise history -- here's a big positive: The last two times they won 13 straight games in a season, they reached the NBA Finals.
With that said, here are five main reflections from the winning streak:
1. Carmelo Anthony's health: Things got scary on the west coast road trip when Melo started moving like a turtle on the court. But since getting his right knee drained, he's been a different player with a higher lift on his jump shot and more hang time in the paint, finishing reverse layups and grabbing offensive rebounds. With the Knicks' star playing his best basketball of the season only about a week before the playoffs -- including making plays for others -- that's a huge momentum swing for the team.
2. The emergence of J.R. Smith: No Amar'e Stoudemire, no problem. There's J.R. Swish. During the winning streak, he's been one of the best all-around shooting guards in the league, craftily getting to the bucket with ease and explosiveness, drawing fouls while absorbing physical contact, crashing the glass to make up for the Knicks' depleted frontcourt, and knocking down athletic step-back jumpers and deep 3-pointers. Smith will need to carry his versatile performances to the postseason.
3. The three-guard starting lineup works:Pablo Prigioni, Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert have provided an extra dose of defense and speed in transition. That's enabled the Knicks to rev up their offense while also maintaining a strong defensive presence on the perimeter to protect the team's smaller frontline. With the experienced Prigioni handling the ball more, the ball flow has become very efficient, and it's allowed to Felton and Shumpert to attack more aggressively as off guards. In addition, they've been knocking down 3-pointers.
4. Knicks need big men: While the Knicks needed some size on Thursday to help defend Nate Robinson's layups down the stretch, the Knicks also needed them on the offensive end. Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, for example, had been a big help recently with their strong screens to free up shooters. As offensive threats in the paint, they cleared out space. They also alleviated pressure off of the Knicks' guards from having to over dribble and work harder to get to the basket in isolation situations.
5. The Knicks are for real: Melo, Smith, 3-point shooters, perimeter defenders, great chemistry, savvy veteran experience, a versatile roster and a winning culture are just a few of the things that have come to full view in the last 13 games. Now, the attention turns to getting their bigs back healthy.
What impressions do you leave with now that the winning streak is over? Leave us your comments below.