Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Knicks 98, Hawks 92
By Jared Zwerling
WHAT IT MEANS: Cope-acabana!
The party was on, once again, for Chris Copeland, who finished with a career-high 33 points on 14-for-29 shooting, leading the Knicks to the win in their season finale. He became the first Knicks rookie in 33 years (since Bill Cartwright) to score 30 points in back-to-back games.
With only eight available players on Wednesday night -- the others mostly rested -- the Knicks finished the season 54-28 as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They'll take on the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Copeland. As he's done all season, the versatile scorer showed off his moves all over the court -- scoring from 3-point range, out of the low post, off driving layups and offensive putbacks. He's also been improving defensively, and tonight he had two blocks and a steal. Copeland has all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff rotation. Watch out, Steve Novak. Not only does Copeland have a quick release from downtown, but he can also put the ball on the floor.
PRIGIONI-AND-ROLL: If Pablo Prigioni played the entire game, perhaps he would've gotten his first career triple-double. But a sprained right ankle suffered toward the end of the first quarter (X-rays were negative) kept him in the locker room for the last three quarters. In the opening period, he had eight points (two 3-pointers), five rebounds and three assists. He also ran the pick-and-roll to perfection with new Knicks acquisition Earl Barron, finding him for two jump shots. The experience of Prigioni showed, playing in his first game with the center.
I-MAN: With no Prigioni, Iman Shumpert took the reins at point guard for the most of the game, and he played well, totaling 18 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. If you recall, that's the position to which Mike D'Antoni transitioned Shumpert for a short period in 2011-12, when the Knicks were dealing with some early-season injuries.
This season, Shumpert's playmaking has gradually improved -- in transition and half-court sets -- since returning on Jan. 17 from a left ACL repair. His personal highlight tonight perhaps came off a pick-and-roll with Barron, in which he drove on Shelvin Mack, quickly crossed on him and bumped him while hitting a tough fallaway runner.
The play represented Shump's growth as a facilitator and finisher. In the postseason starting lineup, he'll cause some mismatch problems at small forward for his ability to create off the dribble. And, of course, he can knock down the 3.
THE BARRON BOOST: In the first quarter, Barron -- not even a Knick for 24 hours -- had seven points and four rebounds. He went on to finish with 11 points and 18 rebounds (six offensive). Not only was his jump shot on -- he scored most of his points outside the paint -- but he was also an interior defensive presence (one block) and a heads-up passer in the paint. On one play, Barron dished to Prigioni cutting backdoor through the middle of the lane for a layup.
FLIGHT WHITE: In Europe, James White's game was that of a point forward. Well, Wednesday night, he put those skills to the test, leading breakaways and several pick-and-rolls. In addition, his 3-point shot was on, finishing 3-for-6 from downtown. Overall, he had a season-high 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. While he'll hardly see playing time in the postseason, Mike Woodson could turn to him for some defense at times. In an earlier matchup in Boston, he put up a decent effort against Paul Pierce.
WHAT'S NEXT: Game 1 against the Celtics at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.