April 25, 2019

D’Angelo Russell leads Brooklyn Nets with 23 points; Vince Carter gets a video tribute, and; Jeremy Lin says he feels good

Last night was evidence that the Brooklyn Nets are working hard to turn a corner and a page on losing seasons of the recent past. Early on in last night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn dug itself into an 18-point hole at the 38.3-second mark in the first quarter and minus 19 points with a score of Hawks 46 and Nets 27 at the 9:02 mark in the second quarter. But, by the end of the first half, the Nets whittled the Hawks lead to six at 57-51. The reversal of fortunes for the Hawks occurred in the third quarter as the Nets ended the third stanza up by six points with the score 86-80. In the fourth is where the Nets kicked things into high gear leading by 20 points at the 2:38 mark on a Shabazz Napier running layup, and then ultimately defeating the Atlanta Hawks 116-100.

With this win, the Nets improved to 21-22 overall and 11-11 at Barclays Center, while the Hawks fell to 12-29 overall and 5-19 on the road with the loss. The Nets are now 13-4 in their last 17 games, which marks their best 17-game stretch since the 2013-14 season when the Nets had a 13-4 stretch from March 9, 2014, through April 8, 2014. Wow, that seems like eons ago. But hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen because right now, the Brooklyn Nets are now the sixth seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference, which would make them playoff bound. If the NBA playoffs were held today, the Nets would be playing the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Not my favorite choice, I think they would have a better chance emerging from the first round if they were to play the Philadelphia 76ers. Just saying.

Die-hard Nets fans know that 2014 was the last time the Brooklyn Nets were in the NBA Playoffs. They also know during the Nets’ “Dark Ages” starting with the 2014-15 NBA season through 2017-18, that if the Nets got behind by more than 10 points, most likely, it would be a wrap because they lacked the strategic basketball acumen to climb back to the top. In many cases, the individual talent was there but collectively, they just didn’t know how to mix all of the strategic elements to survive as winners. And, last night, it was if someone hit a switch and pulled them out of a losing trance. Perhaps, it’s the influence of the respected new veteran players, or, hungrier new younger players, their own growth and maturity as a team, listening to the coaches, or, just tired of losing, or, any combination of the listed reasons and more.

But somehow, last night, the Nets figured out a way to climb out of a 20-point deficit to win by 16 points.

“First of all, no easy games in the NBA, that’s for sure,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about how his team turned around a losing game to a winning one. “They blitzed us in the first quarter. I think a lot of that was them and some of it was us. And 38 points in the first quarter, it’s like you’re playing with fire when you dig a hole like that. Then I think 19 points in the second quarter we gave up and then 43 points in the second half, so we turned our defense around. I think the zone helped us, just got them out of rhythm a little bit, wasn’t our main kind of slice, but it was helpful. I thought it got them out of rhythm a little bit, helped us.”

Nets guard Joe Harris also chimed in on how this comeback showed the maturity and growth of the team.

“Yeah, obviously not the start that we wanted,” Harris said. “We talk about it a lot, trying to be consistent over four quarters, and if you’re not, you have a blimp. Say you have a quarter like today, 38-23, a little sluggish, especially on the defensive end – that’s where the veteran leadership comes in. Guys like J.D. (Jared Dudley) and DeMarre (Carroll) and Ed (Davis), they’re the ones who are vocalizing. They’re talking about aspirations that we have for this team. We can’t have these lapses if we want to get where we’re trying to go. I think considering where we’ve been, where we’re at now says a lot about the team. A lot of it rests with those veteran guys.”

What’s really amazing is that the Brooklyn Nets have found their way to win even without Caris LeVert, who was scoring 18 points per game and seemed destined to be the team’s rising star before his injury on November 12, 2018, when the Nets were playing the Minnesota Timberwolves. So, right now, we are witnessing “next man up” in action.

Obviously, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was disappointed in the game’s outcome and he pinpoints where things went awry for his team.

“I think we came out with the momentum from last night’s game, Atlanta Hawks coach Pierce told reporters. “A lot of energy, a lot of ball movement, a lot of pace, attacking downhill, and we just ran out of gas in the second quarter is where it started. It looks like the second half, but it really started in the second quarter. I don’t think we had a turnover in the first quarter, I could be wrong, it may have been at the end. But to end up with 22 turnovers basically over three quarters and just being flat. Tough, tough.”

Nets starting point guard, D’Angelo Russell, scored a team-high 23 points (11-of-20 FG) with three rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 26 minutes. Joe Harris registered 16 points and eight rebounds, and; Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen, also starters, each contributed 11 points, Allen added five rebounds, while Kurucs, a rookie, added four rebounds.

Brooklyn’s bench outscored the Hawks’ reserves 55-31, led by DeMarre Carroll’s 17 points and four rebounds; Spencer Dinwiddie added 16 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two steals, and; Shabazz Napier chipped in 11 points, and three rebounds, assists, and steals respectively.

Veteran player, Ed Davis, who Nets center Jarrett Allen credits with helping him to up his game, crashed the boards with 16 rebounds to go along with his eight points.

John Collins led the Atlanta Hawks and all scorers in points last night against the Brooklyn Nets with 30 points and 14 rebounds; Trae Young registered 17 points and seven assists, and; Kevin Huerter rounded out the Hawks starters in double digits with 14points, 10 rebounds, and three assists.

The Hawks’ bench players in double digits were Jeremy Lin with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals, and; Alex Len who contributed 10 points, and four assists.

This is Jeremy Lin’s second time at the Barclays Center since being traded from the Nets to the Atlanta Hawks. Lin was plagued with injuries the two seasons he was on the Nets roster. He spoke with reporters about how feels about his game right now.

“I feel good,” Lin told reporters. “I know tonight shots didn’t fall the way I wanted to. But for me, it’s not about makes or misses, it’s about the quality of the shot. I felt like I got really high-quality shots tonight and honestly, a ton of them felt great. That’s how it is sometimes. As many of those nights as I have, where they feel great and don’t fall, I’ll have many where they do. So I’m not too worried about it, I’m more just concerned with making sure I take great shots that I know I can hit and continuing to ride this momentum of trying to be aggressive, trying to make plays for my teammates as well, just trying to be disruptive on both ends of the floor.”

Veteran NBA player Vince Carter who was a Net from 2004 -2009, when the team was in New Jersey, received a video tribute to commemorate his 21st year in the NBA, as he had the night before in Toronto. No one really knows if this is Carter’s last season in the NBA, however, Carter was grateful.

“It’s a great trip – stressful sometimes, a lot of people to see,” Carter said about the reception from both teams. “But the appreciation, I’m very thankful for and I’ll never forget. The video – yes, it could be premature or not –they’re thinking about me and I’m very thankful.”

And, what’s up for the Atlanta Hawks’ immediate future, the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, the Hawks will travel to Philadelphia to play the 76ers tomorrow, Friday, January 11, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets will have their own test as they travel to another country to face the Toronto Raptors, the team with the most wins in the NBA at 31, also on Friday, January 11, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Nets then play the Boston Celtics at home at the Barclays Center on Monday, January 14, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Nets capture the Hawks and score its 5th consecutive win; Jeremy Lin fans did not get the show they expected

When the Brooklyn Nets met up with the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon, this was a game that one went in thinking that the Nets would definitely get a “W.” The Nets were coming to the table with a four-game winning streak. The Hawks win-loss record was only 6-22 while the Nets were sitting at 12-18. The prevailing thought was for the Nets to lose to the Atlanta Hawks under these conditions would have been an absolute travesty. But this is the NBA, and anything can happen. Fortunately, the Nets turned up and kept it going to send the Hawks out of the Barclays Center with a 144-127 loss.

Although the Hawks are not sitting at the upper echelon of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the attendance at the Barclays Center for this Sunday afternoon game was 13,955 slightly higher than the attendance of 13,232 for the Washington Wizards game on Friday night and the Wizards have a similar overall record as Brooklyn. The prevailing thought was that the attendance draw was Jeremy Lin. After all, it was Lin’s first return to Brooklyn since being traded to Atlanta, a trade which took a number of people by surprise including Lin. Unfortunately for Lin’s fans, he played just under 14 minutes scoring a dismal six points and one assist. Certainly not the performance Lin’s fans wanted to see and most of all, not one that Lin wanted to happen for himself. Many reporters thought this would be Lin’s revenge game, but apparently, Lin is still trying to find his rhythm following his catastrophic injury from last season, he scored two points in the first quarter and four in the third, two free-throws and a driving layup. Lin did not play at all in the second quarter.

Despite Lin’s troubles, the Hawks did try to make a run for it in the second quarter and came within two points, 66-64 at 1:34, which possibly sent shivers through Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“I was worried at halftime,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media postgame. “I said this game is too loose; it’s too up and down. They play fast and we knew we had to start that third quarter with an edge and I felt we did. We got stops. Our defense wasn’t great overall, obviously, but I thought we got stops and I thought D’Angelo (Russell) did a great job on both sides of the ball. Defensively he did a great job in pick-and-roll and then, obviously, offensively he was making shots.”

In thinking about D’Angelo Russell’s aggressiveness at the start of quarters, Atkinson said, “he was just spry. Spry; he was aggressive, he was energetic. Offensively he was aggressive. But I thought defensively he was locked in. When D’Angelo is like that we take it to another level. He was excellent tonight.”

Meanwhile, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce reflected on how his team responded to him challenging them at the end of first quarter.

“The response has always been good for our guys,” Pierce stated. “I give them credit there. On the season we’ve been a plus in the second quarter. It’s the first six minutes and the third quarter. That’s the issue. It’s the urgency to come out and take a little pride in what we’re doing to start games. We put ourselves in a hole and come back to within six points at halftime. Our defense all night was suspect.”

The Hawks leading scorers were John Collins with 29 points and eight rebounds; Dewayne Dedmon registered 24 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists; Kent Bazemore tallied 20 points, seven assists, and three rebounds, and Trae Young contributed 13 points and 10 assists.

On the contrary, Brooklyn had eight players in double digits including all starters. D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 32 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals. Other starters in double-digits were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists; Joe Harris tallied 16 points and six assists; both Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen scored 11 points. Kurucs added six rebounds and four assists, while Allen put up four rebounds and two blocked shots.

The Nets’ double-digit scorers in the second unit were Jared Dudley with 16 points and three steals; both Spencer Dinwiddie and DeMarre Carroll scored 15 points each, and Dinwiddie added five assists and three rebounds to his scoring total.

Looking ahead, the Hawks play the Washington Wizards in Atlanta on Tuesday, December 18, 2018.

Meanwhile, the Nets are scheduled to play the Los Angeles Lakers at home also on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The elephant in the room, a trade rumor involving Spencer Dinwiddie was a troubling thought

All over the country NBA teams held Media Day today, a day when NBA teams give the media access to players. The Brooklyn Nets held its media day today in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and if you were expecting any bombshell announcements, so sorry, the atmosphere was pretty much the same since Sean Marks took the helm as Nets general manager.

There was no over the top hyperbole. The team is still on message, it’s all about a positive culture, focused on mental and physical development, teamwork, and staying on task. And, as such, from the players’ perspective, the outlook is mostly positive. To a man, everyone was talking in the most positive of tones about their teammates, like they are all best buds. New players including veterans seemed to be genuinely happy to be in Brooklyn. Each player is looking forward to tipoff to start showing the naysayers and those that are not checking for the Nets that they are a team to reckon with. And, as the theme song from the old sitcom The Jefferson’s goes, “we’re moving on up” was an underlying theme.

At the moment, it appears that Marks and his team did their job during the offseason by bringing in defensive players like Ed Davis, who is known for his defensive prowess. With these additions, the Nets should have the pieces it needs to close out more games than it did last season. There were so many close games that the Nets lost because of lack of defense.

“I know there is a stat that about 25, 26 games that we lost by five points or less,” said Nets guard/forward Allen Crabbe. “If you give us half of those games, that’s what, close to 40 wins and anything can happen with 40 wins … in the East. I feel like with the key additions that we got this offseason is going to help us in areas in that we needed help in and I think we’re going to get over that hump and really give ourselves a chance this season.’’

Now how long will it take for the new guys to gel with the core of players from last season?

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie cautiously stated, “I don’t know, I don’t know…but in terms of the culture, and everything that we are doing, we’re doing all the right things, spending time together on and off the court, putting in the work, and all those things. But in terms of putting a hard fast timeline to it, it’s hard to do it. You have a lot of young guys and we all have to continue to improve both individually and collectively.”

"Knowing how the rebuild process goes, we're going to have to slowly get back," added Nets center Jarrett Allen, who is going into his second season as a professional. “It's just small steps we're taking."

Now, looming in the background with all of this positivity is the chatter that Dinwiddie, a 4-year veteran, and the player who held the Nets together while Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell were out with injuries, could be part of a trade deal for Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Being in trade rumors all summer I guess is two pieces: I want to be here. I love being here. I'm happy that they didn't (trade me). On the flip side, the spectrum of teams calling me (meant) obviously I played well," Dinwiddie said. "I've been on the other side of the situation where obviously nobody really cared what I was doing. It's cool in that respect. I guess mildly stressful, but at the same time, I can't control it, so it doesn't too much matter."

 

TIP IN: Talk of the three-point shot was a running theme throughout Nets Media Day

 

The Knicks start out strong, but ultimately lose to Philadelphia 76ers 104-94

The clocks were turned forward one hour just a few hours before the New York Knicks faced the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. When they stepped on the floor, they played as if they were still asleep.

Coming into the game, the first place 76ers (24-17) were riding a two-game winning streak with wins over Boston and Utah. The Knicks, however, were coming back home after losing their four previous games, all on the road. With Tyson Chandler back in the starting line-up after missing the last 2 games (hamstring and left wrist), New York was hoping his presence, especially on the defensive side, would help bring the end to the losing streak.

With Carmelo Anthony coming out with a purpose (10 points), the Knicks took an early first-period lead (21-14) before Philadelphia outscored them 8-3 to end the period trailing only by two (24-22). Evan Turner (7 points) and Louis Williams (coming off the bench to add another 7) helped close the gap.

The teams went back and forth in the second period with no lead getting bigger than 6 (Philly 49-43) after Thaddeus Young, getting additional bench help, scores four straight points. He finished the period with 10 points. Louis Williams led the team with 13. Anthony, Jeremy Lin, and Landry Fields scored the Knicks last 6 points in the final 1:08, but ended the first half trailing by 2 (51-49).

The Knicks started the third period only trailing by three (65-62) after a Lin lay-up. Then New York went into its sleepwalking mode. Not hard to see how the Sixers dominated the rest of the period and showed why they have scored more points than any other team in that period. Philadelphia outscored the Knicks 24-11 over the rest of the period (38 points for the period) to take a 16 point lead (89-73) entering the final period. Williams continued his hot shooting scoring 14 points.

With both Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire benched in the last period, head coach Mike D' Antoni was hoping the second unit would spark a comeback. It wouldn't happen as Philadelphia continued to hammer the lifeless Knicks. With Young, Williams, and Evan Turner outscoring New York 9-4 to begin the final, the Sixers upped their lead to 21 (98-77). The Knicks got as close as 10 points (104-94) with a little more than 1 minute left but the game had long been decided.

The defense that had been a big part of the Knicks during the Lin-Sanity run not only allowed Philadelphia to shoot 51% from the floor but an unacceptable 57% from 3-point land.

"Collectively we didn't play well. Collectively our spirit isn't good. Collectively, our defense wasn't good. Collectively we just didn't do what we needed to do. We have to solve that," said D' Antoni.

Poor execution held Knicks back in 1st half, but able to eke out a win over the Cavs in closing minutes

The New York Knicks started the second half of their season against the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-19) with a roster that had players that didn’t play the first time they faced each other. The game played in Cleveland and won by the home team (91-81) had everyone talking about guard Kyrie Irving the way all have been talking about Jeremy Lin. Irving had a less than impressive night finishing with only 7 points and 7 assists. But with New York turning the ball over 23 times, leading to 24 Cavaliers points, Cleveland went on to the 10 point victory for their 7th win of the year. Fast forward to last night when New York played host with head coach Mike D’ Antoni having a true point guard in Lin and veteran back-ups in Baron Davis and J.R. Smith. They also had at their disposal Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson who missed time with injuries. Finding the right combination with a full roster was the dilemma facing D’ Antoni.

It did not matter what combination of players D’ Antoni put on the floor in the first half as the Knicks came out as if they all had all participated in every event that took place during NBA All-Star weekend. New York would never lead in the first 24 minutes of the game as Cleveland, coming off their 3 point loss to Boston the night before, jumped all over the Knicks. The Cavs shot 54% taking a 12 point halftime lead. Antwan Jamison led all scorers with 15 points (2 of 3 from 3-point land) while both Tyson Chandler and Jeremy Lin scored 10 points for New York. As poorly as they played, the Knicks were only down by 7 (36-29) with a little less than 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. Over the next 9 minutes, Cleveland outscored the Knicks 25-15 to take a 17 point lead (61-44). Only a 5 point spurt by New York reduced the lead to 61-49.

Said D ‘Antoni of the first half malaise, “it was a matter of rust,” he started. “We just talked about the spirit and the team effort we needed to have in the second half.”

The defense that was non-existent in the first-half, came to life in the 3rd quarter.

New York forced 8 Cleveland turnovers and outscored them 33-19 by the end of the period. They took their first lead of the game with 2:52 left after a Steve Novak 3-pointer. Novak, who established himself in the first half of the season with his deadly 3-point shooting, picked up right where he left off. Novak would hit 2 more 3-pointers before the end of the period as New York took a 2 point lead (82-80) heading into the final 12 minutes.

“He was ridiculous,” said D’ Antoni.

Novak’s hot shooting continued to begin the 4th as he hit the next 2, 3-pointers that extended the Knicks lead to 8 points (90-82). Just when you thought the Cavaliers were about to call it a night, Irving connects on a 3 pointer of his own to cut the lead to 8 (106-98) with less than 3 minutes to go. It was the Lin show the rest of the way. He began with 2 free throws, scored on a lay-up and assisted on 2 other baskets. The last assist, an ally-oop slam with Iman Shumpert on the receiving end.

Lin-Mania Streak Hits 7

February 16, 2012

When Jeremy Lin came out of the game he sat next to Carmelo Anthony. Both had Cheshire Cat smiles on their faces

It was his first game back at Madison Square Garden since he torched Kobe Bryant and the Lakers last Friday to the tune of a game, season, and career-high 38 points. Add to that two come-from-behind road wins (including the game-winner against Toronto) and you knew why the sold-out crowd erupted when Jeremy Lin was introduced prior to the game against the Sacramento Kings. Given how the Knicks have fared against teams with losing records at home, the Kings and their 10-18 mark were no easy target. That was before Lin was propelled into the starting line-up.

Jeremy Lin rebounded from his 8 turnover night against the Raptors recording six assists to go along with five points and zero turnovers all in the first period alone as New York jumped out to a 12-point lead (25-13). They converted on 10 of their first 12 shots before Lin sat down late in the first quarter.

"I just thought we played really exceptionally well in the first quarter," said head coach Mike D 'Antoni.

The team didn't skip a beat while Lin rested. After a 3-pointer by Jimmer Fredette cut the lead to 5 (25-20) Iman Shumpert, Bill Walker and Jared Jeffries scored the next 9 points to extend the lead to 13 (35-22) before Lin returned with 7:38 in the second. Steve Novak, who has stepped up his game during the winning streak, hit his only basket of the half. After a Landry Fields rebound, he finds Novak in the corner who promptly steps up and drains a 3-pointer, getting fouled in the process. He calmly sinks the free throw giving the Knicks a 15 point (49-34) lead.

As well as New York did well offensively shooting 51% for the first half, they did better on the defensive end. The Kings shot only 33% and missed on 9 of 11 3-point attempts.

"Any time you play with good offense, you get excited, D 'Antoni continued. "Tyson (Chandler) anchors the whole thing. Then you have Shumpert who comes off the bench that you can put him on the point guard. With those two guys it's contagious. If you want to win, you play that way."

The Knicks began the third period up by 18 (54-36) and did not let up. At one point, they extended the lead to 25 points after a Fields layup. Walker added 8 more points, Fields 4 while Lin chipped in with 4 more assists. As a team, they increased their shooting percentage to 56 while the Kings dropped a point from the first half to 32%. It gave D 'Antoni a chance to rest not only Lin but Chandler as well. Neither played a minute in the last period. Lin had averaged 38 minutes in the last 6 games. Because of their lead from beginning to end, he only played 26 minutes. Important in that they will play 3 games in the next 4 nights. The scheduled amount of games and minutes do not concern D 'Antoni when it comes to Lin. "He's 23 years old. He should be able to go forever."

When Jeremy Lin came out of the game he sat next to Carmelo Anthony. Both had Cheshire Cat smiles on their faces, while they chatted and giggled as the reserves continued piling on points.

"We were just having fun talking about how we will be excited when he comes back," said Lin. He's looking forward to the first time they will play together. "He (Anthony) is a lethal scorer. Coming off the pick and roll, he can come off the pick and rolls too. We should be more dangerous offensively."

It's been 7th heaven for Lin and the Knicks since he came off the bench to score 25 points against the Nets in a win that may have just saved his head coach's job. The ride continues Friday night when they face a New Orleans Hornets team that had only 5 wins at the start of the evening.

Can anyone say the 8th Wonder?

In the win against the Orlando Magic, Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points in 26 minutes for the New York Knicks

For the second straight game, the New York Knicks took the floor without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. They were able to get a win against Milwaukee Monday night without them as Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, hitting all 12 of his free-throw attempts while battling a tender groin. But last night, it was the Orlando Magic with their 32-18 record taking the floor at Madison Square Garden.

Magic's guard Jameer Nelson took immediate advantage of the Knicks backcourt, scoring 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Orlando took an eight-point lead (24-16) with a little less than 3 minutes to go in the first period. New York finished the period outscoring the Magic 9-5 as Steve Novak scored 5 of those points cutting the deficit to 4 (29-25) as the period came to an end.

With Orlando's Dwight Howard on the bench to begin the second, The Knicks scored the first 6 points to take their first lead of the game (31-29). It started a spark that elevated New York to a shocking 16 point lead before halftime (57-41).

With crisp passing on the offensive end and suffocating defense, the Knicks finished the second period on a 26-12 run. It was capped by a Novak 3-pointer at the buzzer. Both Novak and Anthony finished with 13 points apiece to lead New York while Iman Shumpert, inserted into the starting line-up, contributing 10 points. They shot 54% from the floor while limiting the Magic to 40%. Orlando, who relies heavily on their 3-point shooting, missed 11of their first 13 half attempts (15%). Meanwhile, after a rough start themselves, where the Knicks missed seven of their first nine 3-point attempts, they made four of their last six. The momentum they took in with them carried over to the third period.

If this was a boxing match, the refs would have stopped it so Orlando would not have endured further damage. How good did it get for the Knicks? At one point, the Knicks scored 21 straight points, leading by as many as 39 points (88-49). How bad did it get for Orlando? They missed eight of their first 11 shots as they watched New York pull away.

Magic's head coach Stan Van Gundy was not a happy camper in trying to explain the lopsided loss.

"What's shocking to me is that a team that's playing over .600 basketball could get absolutely rocked by as many teams as we have been." On the 21-point explosion, he said, "we got behind, they hit a lot of shots, they got us down and then we just sort of died."

With the Magic having nothing to lose and Howard and Nelson riding the bench dumfounded by how the game got out of hand, the reserves came out and outscored the Knicks 19-8 to creep within 19 (93-74) to begin the final period. Shumpert scored six of the next eight points, putting Orlando out of its misery.

Carmelo Anthony made the most of his evening finishing with 25 points in 26 minutes, his best game so far this season. He rode the exercise bike to keep his tender groin warm when he wasn't in the game.

Said Anthony afterward, "I just wanted to come out with a focus. My shot was falling today."

The New York Knicks have now won eight of their last nine games and their last six-in-a-row at home. They will be without Stoudemire for at least the next 4 weeks and Lin and his tender knee is on a day to day basis. Interim head coach Mike Woodson has no choice but to go with a smaller line-up.

"We will stay that way for a while," he said afterward. "Teams have to match up with us." He hopes the team continues to not only rebound but to keep the turnovers to a minimum. The Knicks out-rebounded the Magic by 15 (49-34) and had seven fewer turnovers (7-18).

They travel to Atlanta Friday night before returning to the Garden to face Cleveland on Saturday night.

Miami Heat ends Lin-sanity and shows the New York Knicks who's "bigger, stronger, meaner and faster"

About 400 miles from where the NBA is setting up for the second biggest league event (the NBA Finals is the first), the New York Knicks were in Miami facing the Heat who were on a 7 game winning streak. The New York Knicks felt good about themselves coming into the game after demolishing the Atlanta Hawks the night before at Madison Square Garden. They were hoping that momentum would carry over and the combination of Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony in the offense would improve. The Heat had other thoughts as they came out in the immortal words of rapper Kanye West, "bigger, stronger, meaner and faster. In their 102-88 win over the Knicks, the Miami Heat 4 players score in double figures led by Chris Bosh with 25 points. It's what they did on the defensive end that suffocated the Knicks and in particular phenom Lin who was warned before the game that Miami would throw every defensive scheme his way every time he touched the ball.

Miami came out like a "pack of wild dogs" the term used by legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants when he wanted to get his team fired up. The Knicks did not wilt from the first wave of the Heat's pressure. In fact, the Knicks only trailed by 4 points (24-20) after the first period despite Lin's 3 turnovers. Things would only get worse for Lin as he finished the night missing 10 of 11 shots and turning the ball over 8 times.

The third period is when it all began to unravel for New York. They began the period down by 4 points again (51-47) when the Heat took total control. After Lin and Anthony converted 4 straight free throws to get within 2 (53-51) Miami responded by scoring the next 6 points. Before you could say Lin-Sanity, the Heat then outscored New York 27-15 the rest of the way to take a 14 point (80-66) lead. The Heat defense only allowed the Knicks 19 points. Miami then put the game on cruise control as the Knicks could only get within 9 points (82-73) with a little over 9 minutes left in the game.

The bench play that was supposed be a big part of the Knicks since they got Baron Davis back from injury, and the signing of J.R. Smith, was a non-factor in the game. Although Smith did contribute 14 points Davis struggled mightily. He missed all 7 shot attempts finishing the game with zero points. Steve Novak continued his hot shooting nailing 4 of 5 three-pointers for 12 points. Anthony led all Knicks scorers with 19 points.

It wasn't the way the Knicks wanted to end the first half of the year, losing to a team that is expected to not only get to the NBA Finals but to win it all. For one night Lin was brought back to earth by a team who was hell-bent on not letting the Lin-Sanity continue. Said Heat's head coach Erik Spoelstra, "we wanted to treat him (Lin) with the adequate respect he deserves."

NBA All-Star weekend takes center stage tonight as the Celebrity All-Star game and Rising Stars Challenge takes place at the Amway Center. Jeremy Lin has been chosen to be on the team that will be coached by Shaquille O' Neal.

Crimsonsanity sets in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

With No. 14-seeded Harvard's 68-62 upset win over No. 3-seeded New Mexico in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Crimsonsanity is starting to set in.

So, is Crimsonsanity? NBA fans and media all know the "Linsanity" that went on last season when Lin was a player with the New York Knicks. Harvard is the alma mater of Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin. It is also Harvard's first NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament victory ever. Add to that Jeremy Lin's tweet after the Harvard win, "YYYYYEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!! HARVARD winssss!!! hahahahhah i told you," and now we have "Crimsonsanity".

Not surprisingly, already there are Harvard Crimson Upset City t-shirts available. Capitalism does rule.

Meanwhile here at What's The 411, despite the upset, our sports reporters' NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four picks remain intact.

Here's a quick reference for you:

Kalise McKnight's NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four Picks

Kalise likes Duke to take it all.

But, before we get there, in the Final Four, Kalise likes:

• Duke
• Wisconsin
• Kansas
• Miami

He expects that Duke and Kansas will "duke it out" (pun intended) in the championship round in Atlanta.

He believes Duke has the confidence from being battle-tested through a tough out-of-conference schedule. Duke has beaten a lot of NCAA tourney teams VCU, Minnesota, Davidson, Temple, and Louisville. Duke also beat Kentucky, last year's champion. Its ACC foes: Miami, UNC, and NC State, which are also in the NCAA tourney, no problem.

Moreover, Kalise strongly believes that you can't overlook how a team is coached.

"Coach K is one of the best coaches in basketball, period," he said emphatically. "He just coached the USA Men's Basketball team to a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics and he has multiple NCAA titles at Duke."

"The team has shooters; the point guards play at the NBA level, the big men and defense post D. The only flaw is that athletic wing players or tough hard-nose teams usually give Duke problems. The teams that could prevent a Duke final four appearance are Memphis and Michigan State, but I'm sticking with Duke," Kalise continued.

Crystal Lynn's NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four Picks

As for Crystal Lynn, her Final Four picks are:
• Notre Dame
• Memphis
• Michigan
• Butler

She has Memphis and Butler in the Championship game, with Butler winning it all.

T.A. Moreland's NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four Picks

T.A. thinks Georgetown will win it all.

• Indiana
• Georgetown
• Michigan State
• Kansas State

"I like Kansas State as my sleeper," T.A. said. "Michigan State just always seems to be ready to play come tournament time. I have to have some love for my alma mater: Indiana. But, ultimately, it's the Georgetown Hoyas who have gone 14-2 in their last 16 games including an 11-game winning streak who will win it all."

Andrew Rosario's NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four Picks

Andrew's picks for the Final Four are:
• Louisville
• Memphis
• Wisconsin
• Arizona

Andrew picks Louisville and Wisconsin for the Final 2, with Louisville winning it all.

Interestingly, no one picked Gonzaga to make it to the Final Four; no NC State, UNC, Iona, or L.I.U.-Brooklyn.
Well, L.I.U.-Brooklyn got bumped out of contention altogether by James Madison University before the Round of 64 got started. Wishful thinking on my part, as Iona and L.I.U. were real long shots, but hey, I gotta root for the home teams!

As for What's The 411's hot shot sports reporters, time will tell who's right, if at all.

The National Championship game is on April 8.

Who are your picks? Hit us up on Facebook at WhatIsThe411 or on Twitter @WhatsThe411TV.

For the New York Knicks at 3-4, defeating the Atlanta Hawks tonight 95-91, seven games in and 75 more games left to complete their 82-game campaign, their world is already crumbling before they can experience enough time to be wholesome. Those to blame for their less than impressive start to their season include the cheerleaders, the president, and general manager, the hot dog vendors, as well as, the vending machines.

The blame game has already begun as well as the finger-pointing. One would assume that there would be a level of confidence attached to the New York Knicks label based on the season they enjoyed not too long ago capturing the Atlantic Division Crown, and winning 54 games in the process. To the naked eye, this team hardly resembles the team that accomplished those achievements last year due to the numerous roster changes in personnel but what’s most alarming about their start is their current mindset. Last year's Knicks team, although it struggled to play defense throughout the year, a re-occurring theme for the past decade, played with a certain level of intensity, focusing on competing against all challengers no matter the match-up and the strain. Last year’s Knicks team entered the season with expectations that they placed upon themselves of what they envisioned for themselves, revolving around the prime objective of winning an NBA championship, and with wins against the Spurs (which made me feel for the first time in a decade that the Knicks had arrived), three victories against the Miami Heat, as well as, winning a game on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, fans, the public as well as myself believed that a championship was actually within reach. Sadly, thus far, I have not seen that same aura that surrounded the Knicks last year.

When you hear starting point guard Raymond Felton state that "I've got to play harder," team owner James Dolan requesting must-wins against the likes of the Atlanta Hawks, and star forward Carmelo Anthony having to validate the coaching of head coach Mike Woodson to the media, there is obviously a problem.

Tonight's win should grant the Knicks some breathing room until they face the Houston Rockets tomorrow night at home in an early season test against a Western conference contender. The result should indicate the direction of where this season’s destination will be.

The loss of center Tyson Chandler, out 4-6 weeks suffering a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula courtesy of a penetration dribble by Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker last week, will definitely impact the Knicks defense around the basket. The black cat has not left MSG as yet. This latest loss to their frontline makes their inside presence as soft as gummy bears relying on center Andrea Bargnani to be the last line, the enforcer. This loss to their front-court has prompted management to inquire about the services of Forward Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets a rebounding demon for G Iman Shumpert, in my opinion, an absolute mistake not because of what Faried can provide but because of what Shumpert can become, and that's one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league.

All in all, I believe it is too early to panic regarding the Knicks current state due to the infant stages of this 2013-2014 NBA season. Mike Woodson is still trying to find the correct ingredients in assembling the first and second unit. J.R. Smith has just returned furthermore planning to remind us all who the reigning 2012-2013 Sixth Man of The Year is. Bargnani is not comfortable yet, although recording a double-double in tonight's affair with 20 points and 11 rebounds seem as though he’s getting his feet wet, enjoying his new role and responsibilities and at the end of the day Melo is still on the roster right? Let them play.

As for Thursday's nationally televised wine and dine between the Knicks and the Rockets, I expect a shootout, if the Knicks are willing to respond because I know the Rockets will. James Harden is only scratching the surface of becoming the best shooting guard in the league behind Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat G Dwyane Wade. Every player in the NBA salivates at the opportunity to lace them up against their former employers and look for G Jeremy Lin to expose the Knicks as well as Felton. I do not know who on this roster is capable of defending Rockets C Dwight Howard but it will be fun to observe the Knicks and the schemes they will entertain and execute against arguably the best big man in the NBA. The only way the Knicks will be successful this season is if they replicate the production they relished last season and that is scoring more than the other team, a feat that Anthony has to spearhead being the Numero Uno. We'll see how much the Rockets fare under the Broadway lights as well as the North Pole conditions that we love so much as natives.

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