NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22: Landry Fields #2 of the New York Knicks drives against Jerry Stackhouse #42 of the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden on February 22, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
A New York Knicks lineup still working to figure each other out was way more than the Atlanta Hawks could handle without Joe Johnson.
The New York Knicks came into Wednesday night still working on making a new lineup work. Looking to blend Jeremy Lin's astonishing excellence with the return of Carmelo Anthony and a newly deep bench, the Knicks had hoped to take an easy first step on Monday against New Jersey, but Deron Williams and the Nets proved far too vindictive an opponent to welcome New York's experimentation. The Atlanta Hawks, on the other hand, were more than willing to oblige. With Joe Johnson missing due to knee troubles, the rest of the Hawks took off their shoes and one of their socks and pretty much just sat down on the court and folded. New York walloped 'em, 99-82.
The Hawks did come out with a little bit of energy. The Knicks kept turning the ball over, and Atlanta kept taking advantage on the other end by finding Josh Smith for easy buckets, leaving the defensively puzzled Amar'e Stoudemire trailing deep in his wake. The Knicks got their act together, though. They cut out the turnovers and, with some help from Jared Jeffries, locked Atlanta down on defense. Atlanta began turning the ball over themselves and never really stopped. The Hawks finished with 24 turnovers from which the Knicks generated 30 points (Atlanta got just 10 points off New York's similarly egregious 21).
Those points came from a wide array of Knicks. Lin was solid as ever, penetrating against a relatively malleable Atlanta defense to get easy inside looks and darting out in transition to find his teammates. Landry Fields was terrific off the dribble and Anthony, looking a bit less rusty than he did in the Nets game, converted his inside looks off drives to the rim. The New York bench, riddled with holes all season long, finally looked like a viable second unit. Baron Davis and J.R. Smith -- New York's newly installed and fairly impressive back-up backcourt -- played as recklessly as you'd expect, but got some pretty excellent results when they connected. Steve Novak, also getting minutes off the bench, found more occasions to bust out his Aaron Rodgers-tribute "Championship Belt" celebration on account of five made three-pointers. He and Fields led the team with 17 points apiece.
Although Atlanta made a bit of a run in the third quarter (a run anchored by Jerry Stackhouse, which is almost sadder than no run at all) and cut what had been a 30-point lead to 13, but the Knicks refocused and returned to thumping Atlanta to finish out the game.
New York's win pulled them back to .500 at 17-17 while Atlanta fell to 19-17 in their third straight loss.