Updated: November 26, 2012, 10:37 AM ET

1. Knicks Nab Needed W, But Issues Remain

By Jim Cavan
ESPN.com TrueHoop Network

Weekend matinees in the Garden have tended to be where would-be New York Knicks bounce-backs give way to new lows, at least in seasons past.

But Carmelo Anthony & Co. took care of business Sunday afternoon, snapping a two-game Texas skid with a 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons and patching at least temporarily some potentially threatening fissures.

A combination of hot shooting and renewed defensive purpose helped spur the Knicks to a 20-point halftime lead, and it looked for a while like Mike Woodson would be able to rest his road-weary starters ahead of Monday night's showdown in Brooklyn -- a make-up of a Nov. 1 game postponed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

The Pistons -- buoyed by Brandon Knight (21 points and five assists), Kyle Singler (16 points) and Charlie Villanueva (17) -- managed to keep things interesting, cutting the lead to eight with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter.

Smith-Novak
AP Photo/Seth WenigKnicks back on track after two straights losses.

That's as close as Lawrence Frank's troops would get, however, as the 'Bockers revitalized touch from long distance (17-for-33 from deep on the afternoon, including a much-needed 5-for-7 outing from Steve Novak) helped blow the doors open down the stretch.

Despite the lopsided score, the game marked the third straight time the Knicks allowed their opponent to crest the century mark. After riding a handful of early blowouts to elite defensive status, teams have quickly become more adept at breaking down the Knicks by drive and back-door feed, to the tune of 100 paint points the past two games (including 46 Sunday).

Luckily, Anthony (29 points on 10-for-18 shooting) came out guns ablazin', hitting his first six shots en route to 15 early points, the third time in four games Melo's tallied as many or more in the opening frame.

The crisp ball movement that defined New York's unlikely 6-0 start -- and that receded somewhat in their past two losses -- was back, to the tune of 24 dimes on 38 field goals made. Key to this was the heady play of Raymond Felton (14 points and 10 assists), J.R. Smith (15 points, 10 rebounds and five dimes in 31 measured minutes) and Jason Kidd, whose pedestrian stat lines (six points, five rebounds, three assists on this occasion) belie the wily vet's indispensible presence at both ends of the floor.

Still, the quick kicks and swings seemed at times borne more out of timely convenience than strategic necessity. Indeed, while Anthony continues to impress with a more discerning shot selection, his half-dozen turnovers -- that makes 20 in the past three games -- hints at old narratives of offensive stagnation threatening to bubble to the surface.

The Knicks will and should ride Anthony's hot hand while they can. That's not merely a basketball truism; it's how the team has been constructed. But it will be up to Woodson to assure that Melo's inevitable cooling off -- both during games and in the ebb and flow of the season -- doesn't come at the expense of efficiency. (The team finished the day ranked second in the league in offensive production.)

There's also the matter of rebounding, something New York (out-boarded 38-37 by Detroit) has lately found something of a struggle. It's not as though the Knicks lack the requisite size to compete on the glass; Tyson Chandler, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Anthony have all put up solid numbers thus far, and contrary to popular belief the team is giving one of the lowest offensive rebounding rates (10.5 per game) in the league. Rather, it's in opponent defensive rebounding (33.1 per game -- second worst only to Philadelphia), and the resulting lack of second-chance opportunities, where the Knicks have thus far been anemic.

But no talk of the Knicks' recent mini-skid would be complete without crossing the T -- as in technical foul, something the orange and blue have invited with animated aplomb all season long.

Sheed -- jealous perhaps of Anthony's early-season lead -- picked up his second T of the season during a Villanueva second-quarter free throw attempt. That brought the Knicks' season total to a league-leading 12, eight of which belong to Carmelo Anthony (five) and Mike Woodson (three). Not exactly what you'd expect from a team off to its best start in nearly two decades.

It remains to be seen whether such ref baiting will morph from early anomaly to full-blown pandemic. But if the Knicks hope to garner Heat- or Celtic-level whistle love, they must do a better job of picking their battles, particularly when Anthony -- fast learning the flip-side of playing the 4 -- isn't getting the calls.

For the next 24 hours anyway, the Knicks managed to stop the bleeding. Now it's off across the East River to the Barclays Center, where the Atlantic Division's top two teams will square off in a much-anticipated Monday night tilt. Platitudes of measuring sticks aside, it will be as good an opportunity as any for the Knicks to show they have a handle on the cracks in their foundation, and the recipe necessary to seal them.

Jim Cavan's work appears regularly on Knickerblogger

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