New York Knicks: W2W4

W2W4: Knicks at Celtics

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the Knicks’ preseason opener against the Celtics on Wednesday night in Hartford:

Starting 5? Fisher refused to reveal his starting five Tuesday. He wanted a chance to meet with his staff and announce it to the players before letting the public know.

It will be interesting to see who Fisher goes with at shooting guard, power forward and center.

With Tim Hardaway Jr. (hip) and Iman Shumpert (hamstring) dealing with minor injuries, don’t be surprised if J.R. Smith gets the starting nod.

Will Fisher go with Andrea Bargnani or Amar'e Stoudemire at power forward or center? Will he go traditional with Samuel Dalembert at center?

Who is he most comfortable pairing Carmelo Anthony with on the front line? All things to keep an eye on tonight.

De-fense? Fisher preached the importance of defense throughout training camp. This is the Knicks’ first chance to show what they can do on the defensive end.

Shumpert is undoubtedly their best individual defender. But, based on recent history, they don’t appear to have many strong defenders outside of him.

Will the Knicks be able to execute on team defense? That’s certainly something to keep an eye on tonight. Something else? How will Carmelo fare in the triangle?

Fisher debut: This is Fisher’s first time on an NBA sideline. What will be his biggest adjustment? What will come naturally? It will be interesting to see what he has to say about it after the game.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks at Raptors

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight’s Knicks-Raptors game:

The end? The Knicks' “tragic” number is down to two. So a Knicks loss tonight, combined with a Hawks win against the Nets, would knock New York out of playoff contention.

Jason Kidd has already stated that he plans to rest some of his key players, so things don’t look good for the Knicks.

Any combination of Knicks losses or Hawks wins that add up to two would clinch the eighth seed for the Hawks. Atlanta plays Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte and Milwaukee to end the season. After Friday’s game against the Raptors, the Knicks host Chicago, play Brooklyn on the road and close the season at home against Toronto.

If the Knicks finish the season 4-0, they’d need the Hawks to go 1-3 in order to qualify for the postseason. The Knicks have lost two straight and five of nine.

Melo’s shoulder: Carmelo Anthony has had four days to rest his injured shoulder. It will be interesting to see whether it affects his shot tonight. Anthony originally aggravated the shoulder last Wednesday against Brooklyn. In his next two games, Anthony shot just 9-for-31 and scored a total of 23 points, well below his 27.5 per-game average.

He had a season-high nine turnovers in a loss last Friday to Washington and didn’t attempt a shot in the fourth quarter against the Heat last Sunday.

He’s said that his right arm felt dead at times and that he struggled to lift his arm above his shoulders. X-rays on the shoulder taken last week came back negative. Anthony did not undergo an MRI to reveal the extent of the damage.

Long division: The Knicks won the Atlantic Division last season and totaled 54 wins in the regular season. With a victory tonight, the Raptors can clinch the division crown and possibly kick the Knicks out of playoff contention. One reason for the reversal of fortune has been the presence of Andrea Bargnani, who was dealt from Toronto to the Knicks in the offseason.

The Knicks struggled on both ends of the floor with Bargnani healthy and have been a different team offensively since Bargnani went down with an elbow injury in late January. It’s hard not to imagine what the season would have been like if the Knicks had never dealt for Bargnani.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks at Jazz

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
Here are a few things to keep an eye on tonight during the Knicks-Jazz game:

Scoreboard watch: By the time they get into the locker room at halftime tonight, the Knicks may know if they have a chance to overtake Atlanta for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks play the 76ers at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta. This is the same Sixers team that snapped a 26-game losing streak on Saturday with a win over Detroit.

Atlanta has lost six straight, and there has been speculation (unfounded) in some circles that the Hawks have no interest in making the playoffs. They'd rather have a high pick in the 2014 NBA draft than be the eighth seed in the East -- as the thinking goes. If the Hawks lose tonight to Philly, that theory will only gain more traction.

The Knicks take on the Jazz in Utah in a game that tips off at 9 p.m. So they should know the result of the Atlanta game by halftime, if not shortly thereafter. If the Knicks win in Utah and the Hawks lose, the Knicks will take over the eighth seed by percentage points.

Utah is the worst team in the Western Conference, having lost five straight games and 15 of 17. In its latest defeat, the Jazz scored just nine points in the fourth quarter against the Thunder.

There's reason for the Knicks to be cautious, though. They have lost five of their last six games in Utah and have established an ugly pattern on this road trip of losing games in blowout fashion. They lost to the Lakers and Suns by a combined 55 points. New York is also 6-10 in the second game of back-to-backs.

"When we come out and have games like we did against L.A. and Phoenix," Carmelo Anthony said Sunday, "you look back and you're like, 'What the hell are we doing? Do we want it or not?'"

That question will be answered Monday night.

Less or more from Melo? Anthony had an off night from the field on Sunday. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting, failing to reach 20 points for the first time in 24 games. Anthony came through when it counted, though, scoring four points in the final 1:25 to help seal the win.

Really, though, the Knicks got it done on the defensive end, holding the Warriors to 35 percent shooting and getting several key stops late in the fourth quarter.

If you're a Knicks fan, it was encouraging to see the team have success on an off night for Anthony. New York got a boost from Amar'e Stoudemire (15 points, 13 rebounds), J.R. Smith (21 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points).

Will they get that kind of well-rounded performance from the supporting cast tonight?

"I just hope that we can build on this," Anthony said after the win over the Warriors. "Bring the same mindset and focus that we had, because if we don't go into Utah and get that one, [this win] is irrelevant."

The Say Hey Kid: One Jazz player the Knicks may want to keep an eye on tonight is Gordon Hayward. The guard/forward has scored 21.8 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field over the past four games. It will be interesting to see how J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert (and whoever else Mike Woodson decides to throw at Hayward) fare against the former Butler star.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks at Suns

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight's Knicks-Suns game:

Inching closer to 8th? Back on March 1, the Knicks were six games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. On Friday, they sit 1 1/2 games back of Atlanta with 10 games to play.

The Knicks have won nine of ten and are 9-4 in March. They are one win shy of tying their highest win total for a month this season. The Knicks went 10-6 in January. A win Friday would pull the Knicks to within one game of Atlanta, which has lost five straight.

Atlanta plays at Washington on Saturday night. The Knicks play at Golden State on Sunday.

Amar'e's return: The Knicks can thank Amar'e Stoudemire for their strong March. They are 9-3 since Stoudemire was in the starting lineup.

Stoudemire's averaging 17.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on 58 percent shooting as a starter. He's been praised by Mike Woodson, ex-Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and his teammates in recent days for persevering through multiple knee injuries.

Stoudemire will no doubt be motivated tonight against Phoenix. He started his career with the Suns before signing with the Knicks as a free agent in 2010. The Suns declined to match the Knicks' offer to Stoudemire over concerns surrounding his oft-injured knees.

The Knicks could use a strong performance in the front court from Stoudemire on Friday as the Suns backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe give them an advantage on that end of the floor.

Best against the West: Carmelo Anthony's played well against Western Conference teams this season. In his last seven games against West opponents, Anthony's averaged 33.7 points per game.

In his five games prior to that, Anthony averaged 26 points per game.

Anthony, though, has lost 12 straight road games against the Suns, per STATS LLC.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks at Kings

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
Here are a few things to keep an eye during Wednesday's Knicks-Kings game:

The Knicks' playoff hopes are on life support after Tuesday's miserable loss to the Lakers. A defeat to Sacramento may put the Knicks out of their misery.

The Knicks trail the Hawks by three games in the race for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. If they lose to the Kings tonight and the Hawks beat The Timberwolves, that deficit will rise to four with ten games to play.

That may not seem impossible to overcome, but the Knicks face a tough slate in their final 10 games. Nine of their final 10 are against teams that are above .500. Eight of the Knicks' final 10 games are against teams that are in playoff position.

King me? The Kings embarrassed the Knicks the last time these two faced one another. Ex-Kings guard Jimmer Fredette went off for 24 points in a 106-101 overtime win at Madison Square Garden. Freddette won't be on the floor tonight against the Knicks but Isaiah Thomas, if healthy, will keep the Knicks' perimeter defenders occupied.

Thomas is questionable with a right hand contusion.

The Knicks will also have to deal with Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins.

Cousins has posted seven straight double-doubles, averaging 22.3 points and 14.1 rebounds in that span. He had 32 points and 12 boards in Sunday's 124-107 win over Milwaukee.

Bad in back-to-backs: The Knicks are 6-10 in the second game of back-to-backs. They've lost back-to-back games following an eight-game winning streak. Their last three-game losing steak came earlier this month, when the Knicks lost seven in a row.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Pacers

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight’s Knicks-Pacers game:

Getting their Phil: Wednesday’s game is the first of the Phil Jackson era.

Jackson is expected to address the team before the game. He will also talk to coach Mike Woodson, who is expected to be fired at the end of the season. He’s under contract for next year, but Jackson will likely want to bring in his own coach.

Jackson also said he plans to talk to Carmelo Anthony to offer support as the Knicks attempt to make the playoffs. Any discussions with Anthony about his free agency will take place at a later date.

Lucky 7? The Knicks are 4.5 games behind the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks. They have 15 games to make up the deficit. So every game from here on out will take on a must-win feel.

The game against the Pacers is the Knicks’ first against a team over .500 in seven games. They’ve won six straight, all against teams well under .500.

All six of those games have been won by at least 10 points. That’s the second-longest such streak in franchise history. The Knicks won eight consecutive games, all by a double-digit margin, during the 1969-70 season. Jackson was on that team.

The protest: A group of Knicks fans plans to protest the way James Dolan and team executives have handled the team. The group is expected to line up outside Madison Square Garden a couple of hours before tipoff.

They have said they support the hiring of Jackson but distrust Dolan and his ability to let Jackson do the job without any interference.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Bucks

March, 15, 2014
Mar 15
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Saturday's Knicks-Bucks game:

Going streaking: Phil Jackson has dominated the news cycle for the past week or so. But the Knicks have dominated the court.

They've won five in a row and are looking for their season-high sixth straight on Saturday afternoon against Milwaukee.

The last time the Knicks played the Bucks, they lost in miserable fashion on Feb. 3. That loss was one of the worst in a stretch in which they lost 13 of 15.

Since then, New York has climbed back into the playoff race.

Carmelo Anthony & Co. enter play Saturday 3 1/2 games back of the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks with 16 games to go. Only two teams since 1984 have rebounded from deficits of more than five games with less than 25 to play. The Knicks, who were six games out with 21 to go, are trying to become the third.

Bucks are bad: The Knicks (26-40) have played extremely well in their recent five-game streak, shooting 50 percent from the floor and scoring 114 points per game.

If they can duplicate those numbers on Saturday, it's hard to see them losing against the Bucks (13-52).

Milwaukee has lost four straight road games and is shooting just 15.8 percent from the beyond the arc in its last two games, per STATS LLC.

The Bucks will have to deal with Amar'e Stoudemire on Saturday. Stoudemire missed Wednesday's game as a precautionary measure to protect his oft-injured knees.

The veteran forward has been a key to the Knicks' recent surge, scoring 18 points per game over his last five contests.

Not morning people: The Knicks are 0-7 in games that start before 3:30 p.m. Saturday's game against Milwaukee tips at noon.

"You know, mental than anything. We’ve got to come out from the gate and push ourselves through it, not try to think and put it in our minds that it’s an early game," Anthony said after practice on Friday. "We can’t do nothing about the early game at this point, so we might as well come out and try to get it going early."

W2W4: Knicks at Timberwolves

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight's Knicks-Timberwolves game:

How bad can it get? The Knicks have lost seven straight. A defeat to Minnesota on Wednesday would leave the Knicks with their first eight-game losing streak since February 2010.

Win or lose, the Knicks will probably talk about being mathematically alive in the playoff hunt after the game. But the odds are slim.

They enter play Wednesday 6 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

As we've mentioned before, since the current 16-team playoff format began in 1983-84, only two playoff qualifiers were five or more games out of the eighth playoff spot with 25 or fewer games left in the season (1996-97 Bullets, 2004-05 Nets).

Both of those teams were swept in the first round.

Show him some Love? The Knicks will get a close look Wednesday at a player some hope will be part of their future.

Kevin Love is expected to test free agency in the summer of 2015, and the Knicks would love to get him to the Garden.

Love is having one of his best seasons as a pro. He's averaging 32.9 points and shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range in the Wolves' past seven games. They've won six in that span.

Love has also crushed the Knicks of late. In his past four meetings against New York, Love has averaged 32.5 points and 20.5 rebounds, according to STATS LLC. He had 34, 15 and 5 assists while Kevin Martin added 30 points in a 109-100 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 3.

More time for Toure'? Raymond Felton has struggled mightily for most of the season. But those struggles have only worsened since the point guard was charged with two weapons-related felonies last week.

Since his arraignment, Felton has hit just 21.9 percent (7-for-32) in four games. He went 1-for-9 against Detroit on Monday. You have to wonder how much longer Mike Woodson can go with him. Maybe it's time to play Toure' Murry more often?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Warriors

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight's Knicks-Warriors game:

Curry's back: The Knicks are 16 games under .500 and barely watchable, so one of the few reasons left to tune in these days is to see visiting stars. Fortunately, one of the top shooters in the NBA is coming to town tonight.

Stephen Curry will invade the Garden for the first time since he put up 54 points and hit 11 of 13 3s at Madison Square Garden in February 2013.

Curry is in the midst of another fantastic season, with per-game averages of 23.8 points and 8.8 assists. Since 1991–92, the only player who finished a season with averages as high as Curry’s in both of those categories is Gary Payton for the SuperSonics in 1999–2000 (24.2 PPG, 8.9 APG), per ESPN Stats and Info.

Curry is doing it all for Mark Jackson's Warriors. He has either made or assisted on 42 percent of his team’s field goals this season, the highest percentage in the NBA, per ESPN Stats and Info.

Lone star: Carmelo Anthony, the only other reason to watch the Knicks at this point in the season, had another strong night Thursday. He had 29 points on 11-for-20 shooting in the Knicks' 26-point loss to Miami.

Anthony needs only four points tonight to finish with an average of 30 points per game in the month. He would join Kevin Love (34), Kevin Durant (33 and playing tonight, having already clinched a 30-PPG average), LeBron James (30.8) and Blake Griffin (30), to make a total of five players for February, tying the NBA record for the most such players in one calendar month.

Another day for Ray: Raymond Felton will play his second game since being arraigned and charged with two weapons-related felonies.

Felton struggled in his first game back, scoring two points on 1-for-7 shooting in 31 minutes against the Heat on Thursday. Afterward, he said he didn't want to use his arrest as an excuse for his poor shooting.

“Of course it’s a lot going through my mind but I’m on the basketball court and I’m out here playing, so there’s no excuses,” Felton said. “The ball just didn’t go in the hole for me; it was just one of those nights.”

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Kings

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight’s Knicks-Kings game:

Playoff race: The Knicks, from Mike Woodson on down, say they are solely focused on making a push toward the playoffs. A win on Wednesday against the Kings would get them closer to a playoff spot. It would also send them into the All Star break with some positive vibes, a rarity for a team that is 11 games under .500.

A loss would fuel more speculation that Woodson is on the verge of losing his job.

New York enters play Wednesday 2 1/2 games behind eighth-place Charlotte in the East. A win tonight and a Nets win over the Bobcats would bring the Knicks within 1 1/2 with 30 games to play. Certainly a manageable deficit.

But the more coveted real estate in the conference is the sixth seed. A finish of sixth or higher virtually ensures that the Knicks will avoid a first-round matchup with Indiana or Miami.

New York is five games behind 6th-place Washington.

Bounce-back for Melo? Carmelo Anthony had a rare off game on Sunday against Oklahoma City. He had a season-low 15 points and missed 14 of 19 shots as he was draped for much of the afternoon by Kevin Durant.

In the eight games prior to that, Anthony averaged 33.6 points per game on 51 percent shooting. He also knocked down 44 percent of his threes.

It will be interesting to see what Carmelo does in the fourth quarter tonight if the game is still in doubt.

In his last two fourth quarters, Melo is 0-for-8 with just one point scored. On the season, Anthony’s career-low 36.7 percent in fourth quarter (79-215).

Maybe Anthony’s work load is a factor here. He’s leading the NBA in minutes per game (38.6).

J.R. Smith
Masked man: J.R. Smith suffered a small fracture in his left cheek bone on Sunday when his face hit Kevin Durant’s knee at the end of a drive in the second half. Smith was fitted with a face-mask and is expected to play against Sacramento.

He’s also looking to bounce back from a rough outing Sunday. Smith had just seven points against Oklahoma City. He had averaged 18.2 points on 46 percent shooting in the past 11 games.

King me: The Knicks play one of the eight teams with a worse record than they have on Wednesday.

Sacramento (17-35) has lost seven straight road games and shot just 41 percent from the field during that span.

Rudy Gay, in particular, has struggled. He’s totaled 19 points on 6-for-23 shooting in two games since returning from an Achillies injury, according to STATS, LLC.

Gay missed 17 of 21 shots in his most recent game at MSG on Feb. 13 as a member of the Raptors.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks at Thunder

February, 8, 2014
Feb 8
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon’s New York Knicks-Oklahoma City Thunder game:

Slowing KD: How will the Knicks handle Kevin Durant?

Durant’s leading the NBA with a 31-point scoring average. He’s hitting 41 percent of his 3s, handing out a career-high 5.5 assists and pulling down 7.6 rebounds.

Mike Woodson can throw Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith at Durant. No matter who guards him, New York (20-30) will have its hands full.

“Spectacular season,” Anthony said. “From top to bottom.”

Anthony hasn’t been that bad himself. He’s second in the NBA in scoring at 27.4 points per game. Anthony won the scoring title last season, beating Durant in a race that lasted until the final days of the regular season.

If the season ended on Sunday, Durant’s 3.6 points per game lead over Anthony would be the largest gap between first and second in the scoring race since 2003-04, when Tracy McGrady led Peja Stojakovic and Kevin Garnett by 3.8 points.

Pick-and-roll pressure: One key for the Knicks on Sunday is trying to slow down the Thunder pick-and-roll.

If the numbers are to be believed, that could be an issue for New York.

Woodson’s Knicks are the worst team at defending the pick-and-roll. Ball handlers are scoring a league-high 42.1 percent of the time against New York. The roll man is scoring a league-high 57.4 percent of the time.

The Thunder ball handlers -- think Durant and Reggie Jackson -- rank sixth in score percentage on pick-and-roll plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Sharing the scoring burden: In order to beat OKC, which is coming off a road loss to the Orlando Magic, the Knicks will need strong scoring from Anthony’s supporting cast. Smith has delivered on that end lately, averaging 18.2 points on 46 percent shooting in his past 11 games.

The Knicks’ starting shooting guard, Shumpert, has had an uneven season on offense.

He’s scored in single digits in 12 of his past 13 games and is averaging 5.4 points on 30 percent shooting in that span. He’s 4-for-17 from the field in the past three games since returning from a left shoulder sprain.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Nuggets

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during tonight’s Knicks-Nuggets game:

Woody watch: Here we go again. Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s job security has come into question once again amid another losing streak. There has been rampant media speculation over the last few days that Woodson is on the verge of being fired.

The coach himself called this Knicks’ season a “disaster” in an interview Thursday on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show.”

The Knicks (19-30) have lost three straight after winning four in a row. They are 2 1/2 games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

New York faces a challenging Denver team tonight and then hits the road to go to Oklahoma City before finishing the first half at home against Sacramento.

Going 1-4 into the All Star break surely wouldn’t do much to help Woodson’s job security.

That’s why tonight’s matchup against Denver has taken on an added air of importance.

Melo fellow: The Knicks-Nuggets trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York is nearly three years old, but it’s sure to be a topic of discussion tonight given that the Nuggets are in town.

No one can argue that the Knicks’ current struggles are Anthony’s fault.

He's averaging 29.3 points while connecting on 40.5 percent from beyond the arc in six games since setting a franchise record with 62 points in a 125-96 win over Charlotte on Jan. 24.

Anthony has struggled against Denver in his Knicks tenure. According to STATS, LLC., Anthony’s shooting 35.2 percent from the field against the Nuggets -- that’s the lowest career shooting percentage against any opponent in Anthony’s career.

J.R. revival: J.R. Smith has been a different player since he was benched for trying to untie his opponent’s shoelaces and being late for a team meeting. He’s averaging 18.1 points on 47 percent shooting since being benched against Charlotte on Jan. 14. Smith has hit 46 percent of his 3-point attempts in that span.

Smith, an ex-Nugget, struggled during the Knicks’ loss to Denver on Nov. 29. He had just 11 points and missed six of seven field goals. Smith seems to be fully healthy following offseason knee surgery now. He was still struggling with his knee during the first Nuggets meeting.

Will Ray play? Raymond Felton has averaged five points on 23 percent shooting in 29 minutes in his last two games. Felton's struggles have impacted his playing time. He was benched for the fourth quarter of the Knicks' loss to Portland. It will be interesting to see how Woodson uses Felton tonight.

"He’s just got to keep working and work himself through it," Woodson said after Thursday's practice. "It’s not something that’s just going to happen. He’s got to demonstrate it in practice and he’s got to carry it over to the game."

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks at Bucks

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Monday night’s game against the Bucks:

Road trip: The Knicks will play 10 of their next 15 games on the road. They start that stretch with an easy one Monday night. New York will face a Milwaukee team that has lost 18 of 22 at the Bradley Center.

The Knicks are trying to shake off Saturday’s home loss to the defending champion Heat and build off a stretch in which they won four out of five games.

"We lost some games that we thought we should have won, but that's neither here nor there. I like the direction that we're going in as far as our mentality, our focus," Carmelo Anthony said. "We've got to bounce back on Monday."

The Knicks enter play Monday one game behind Charlotte for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Charlotte is idle on Monday, so a Knicks win would bring them a half-game closer to a playoff spot. A loss would give New York 29 for the season, which would be one more than the club lost all of last season.

Melo loves Milwaukee: Carmelo has had quite a run against the Bucks of late. In his past 13 games against Milwaukee, Anthony has averaged 29.7 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting.

He’s also thrived in the Knicks’ small-ball lineup in recent games. Since Andrea Bargnani went down with an elbow injury, the Knicks have featured Anthony at power forward instead of small forward. Anthony has averaged 35.2 points on 53 percent shooting since the Knicks went with that lineup.

Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. has had a hot hand for the Knicks of late, too. In his past five games, the rookie is scoring 18 points and has hit 50 percent of his 3s (34 attempts). In his first 41 games, Hardaway averaged 8.2 points per game.

If Iman Shumpert returns Monday from a shoulder injury, it will be interesting to see how that affects playing time for Hardaway and/or J.R. Smith.

Bucks are bad: The Bucks have lost six in a row overall and have dropped their past seven meetings with the Knicks.

In the Knicks' season-opening win over Milwaukee, they shot 50 percent from the field and had 50 points in the paint. The Knicks needed two overtimes to beat the Bucks in Milwaukee on Dec. 18 but managed to knock down a season-high tying 17 3s in that much-needed win.

Mike Woodson & Co. would prefer an easier scenario Monday. One key is the Knicks’ shooting percentage. When the Knicks shoot above 50 percent, they are 9-0, per STATS LLC. When the Bucks allow an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent, they're 0-13.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Celtics

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28

Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Tuesday night’s Knicks-Celtics game:

Payback time? The last time the Celtics came to the Garden, it wasn’t pretty. Boston blew the Knicks out by 41 points in a loss that led to intense public speculation about Mike Woodson’s job status. In a season full of awful losses, the early December defeat to Boston may have been the worst.

“That left a bitter taste in my mouth and everybody’s mouth,” Carmelo Anthony said.

The Celtics, though, are a different team now than the one that embarrassed the Knicks. They have lost eight of 10 and are 1-4 since Rajon Rondo returned to the lineup.

The Knicks hope they are a different team, as well. They’ve won two in a row on the strength of Anthony’s hot hand. Carmelo has scored a combined 97 points in the past two games.

In Sunday’s win over the Lakers, four other Knicks scored at least 13 points. That’s the kind of scoring balance New York used last season en route to 54 regular-season wins and an Atlantic Division title.

"Last year we had five guys that averaged in double figures and I've always wanted a team where you just didn't know where it was going to come from," Woodson said. "And we know Melo's going to get his, but we need everybody to be a part of the offense and touch the ball and feel good about themselves."

Anthony also handed out five assists Sunday. The Knicks are 12-3 when Anthony hands out at least four assists.

Rondo rising? Historically, Rondo has been a Knicks killer.

He’s averaging 18.4 points, 12.8 assists and 8.6 boards in his past five games against the Knicks, per STATS LLC.

But it would be a surprise if the Celtics guard put up those numbers Tuesday night.

Rondo is likely still working off the rust from a nearly year-long absence following ACL surgery. He’s averaging 6.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game so far. He had his best game Sunday against Brooklyn, pouring in a season-high 13 points in 30 minutes. He added eight assists and eight rebounds but turned it over six times.

Turning the corner? Earlier this month, it felt like the Knicks were starting to figure it out. They won five in a row and six of seven to start 2014. But that feeling was wiped away after their five-game losing streak in the middle of the month.

New York has an opportunity Tuesday to put together a three-game winning streak -- its second longest of the season. And with Cleveland coming into town Thursday, the Knicks have a chance to build major momentum going into Saturday’s showdown with the Heat.

Raymond Felton's scoring seems to be one harbinger of success for the Knicks (17-27). Felton had 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting against Los Angeles on Sunday in his best offensive performance of the season. According to STATS LLC, the Knicks are 8-3 when he scores at least 13 points and are 4-13 when he fails to reach that number.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

W2W4: Knicks vs. Lakers

January, 26, 2014
Jan 26
Here are a few things to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon’s New York Knicks-Los Angeles Lakers game:

Encore? The biggest storyline is Carmelo Anthony and his record-setting 62-point night on Friday. What can he do for an encore?

The conditions seem to be perfect for another big game for Melo.

He is playing on national television, facing Mike D’Antoni, a coach whom many believe he feuded with, and going up against a Lakers team that can’t stop anyone. Plus, having Kobe Bryant on the bench should serve as more motivation.

“Will I score 62 on Sunday? No,” Anthony said. “But as a team we’ve got to have that same mentality, that same focus that we had [Friday].”

Anthony was electric on Friday, hitting 23 of his 35 shots to set the Knicks and Madison Square Garden single-game scoring records. Bryant had the previous Garden record (61).

If Anthony’s recent history against D’Antoni and the Lakers is any indication, he could be in for a big afternoon Sunday.

Carmelo, who some believe influenced D’Antoni’s decision to resign from the Knicks post in March 2012, scored an eye-popping 46.5 points per 48 minutes against the D'Antoni-led Lakers last season.

Another factor in Anthony’s favor against Los Angeles? He’ll probably be playing power forward. Anthony started there against the Bobcats because Andrea Bargnani was out with an elbow injury.

Last season, Carmelo averaged an NBA-high 28.7 points per game while playing primarily at power forward. This season, he has played more small forward. It hasn’t had a major impact on his numbers, but the Knicks are struggling at 16-27.

For what it’s worth, J.R. Smith sees plenty of value in playing Carmelo at power forward.

“He better play the 4 the rest of the year. Whenever he’s at the 4, it causes so many mismatch problems,” Smith said. “And I think that helps our wings as well and Shump. So vice versa on the other end. When their 4 is guarding Shump or something like that, we’re able to take advantage of that.”

More from J.R.? Speaking of Smith, he had a strong night against Charlotte. The reigning Sixth Man Award winner poured in 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 31 minutes. He hit three of four 3s and handed out four assists.

In what could just be a coincidence, Smith is shooting 42.6 percent when he doesn’t share the floor with Bargnani and 31.9 percent when he’s on the court with Bargnani. That’s something to keep an eye on during Bargnani’s absence.

Jeremy’s time? Another overlooked aspect of Friday’s win was the emergence of Jeremy Tyler, who had eight points and five rebounds in 22 minutes. He hit four of eight shots and pulled down three offensive rebounds. Tyler also blocked two shots.

With Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin out, Tyler figures to get an increase in minutes. So he’s worth keeping an eye on this afternoon.

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.



Carmelo Anthony
19.5 4.5 0.5 31.5
ReboundsQ. Acy 8.0
AssistsJ. Smith 5.0
StealsS. Larkin 3.0
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.5