Recapping an entertaining Thursday night in the NBA while focusing on three trends Knicks fans should watch going forward.
Paul Flannery covered the Celtics angle beautifully here. Let's talk real quickly about three interesting Knicks developments that bear watching.
1. Going zone in the second quarter: The Knicks turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead by employing a 1-2-2 zone thingy to hide Amar'e Stoudemire's defensive weaknesses. The Celtics went 0-5 with one turnover and one drawn foul during that stretch. It's still too difficult to tell whether to credit the Knicks' zone defense or blame the Celtics' horrible second unit, but we should watch to see if Mike Woodson employs it in the future.
2. Amar'e Stoudemire was excellent: That kind of energy, explosiveness and scoring punch in limited minutes is exactly what Knicks fans hoped he'd provide when he returned. He's not a starter anymore, but the Knicks don't win this game without his 15 points and nine rebounds.
3. That crunch-time offense was ... yikes: The Knicks didn't so much win this game as much as survived it. After J.R. Smith hit a jumper to put the Knicks up 10 with under seven minutes left, the Knicks' offense completely sputtered. The next five plays were all isolations, and the Knicks scored on just one of them. (A second score was on a tip-in for Stoudemire). The Knicks survived because J.R. Smith hit a spot-up three a few possessions later but, had they not built up a bigger cushion, their aversion to running actual plays in crunch time would have cost them. This bears watching as the Knicks advance further into the season.
For now, this was a great way for the Knicks to get the "winning in Boston" monkey off their backs. These three trends bear watching, though.
BREAK UP THE LINDSEY HUNTER SUNS!
In all seriousness, it's good to see Phoenix actually attacking the basket. Goran Dragic kind of faded after a strong start, but he was outstanding in this game. If he can continue to be aggressive, he'll continue to rise among the league's finest young point guards.
For the Clippers, the problem was half-court execution again. Love Eric Bledsoe for what he does, but he's had several moments recently where you see why he's not quite ready to take over a team yet. It's one thing to bring energy from the bench; another to run a starting team.
I'm happy for DeMar DeRozan. It's not his fault the Raptors overvalued his contributions and handed him a big contract. He works hard to improve his weaknesses and has made a definite jump this season, even if he's still not a $10 million player. I'm happy he got his moment right here.
On the flip side, I feel bad for Magic fans and players. Their team always competes and it's just not good enough.