December 12, 2018

NY Knicks assistant coach Herb Williams checks in with What's The 411's Andrew Rosario at John Starks' celebrity bowling tournament.

The two talk about the new makeup of the New York Knicks, the effects that trade rumors have on a team, and how it was for Williams, a former player with the New York Knicks, to play with John Starks.

Caris LeVert scores a career-high 29 points for the Nets, and don’t sleep on Carmelo Anthony, Rockets forward scored 28 points off the bench against the Nets

What started off as a winnable game for the Brooklyn Nets turned into a nightmare. 

The Nets were up by as much as 10 points in the first quarter at the 2:15 mark and up by as much as 14 points in the second at 3:11 before ending the first half with a five-point spread 61-56. As per the case with the Nets, the third quarter brought a reversal of fortunes, as the Rockets came on with a burst of energy leading the Nets by as much as eight points before ending the third with just five points over the Nets at 91-86. Early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets led by as much as eight points; the Nets tried to make it interesting by getting within one point twice with two three-pointers from guard Caris LeVert at 7:12 (Rockets 100 – Nets 99) and then again at 6:45 (Rockets 106 – Nets 102). But with missed shots and fouling, the Nets allowed the Rockets to close out the fourth 119-111.

With this loss, the Nets fell to 3-6 this season and 2-2 at Barclays. The Nets loss also allowed the Rockets to improve their overall record to 2-5 and 2-1 on the road.

“Third quarter was where they got their break,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media after the game. “We’ve had some issues there (in the third quarter) before and felt like they came out more aggressive and thought we missed some shots. They picked up their defense. I felt that. I definitely felt that. Listen, I think you’ve got to give them credit they were the better team tonight. Obviously, the third quarter was where they got their break.”

“Their defense, they locked down,” Atkinson continued. “They had their defensive unit out there. We had a tough time getting shots off. I thought we got a good few opens ones that didn’t go down, something we have to look at. But again, I give a lot of credit to their defense.”

So, now, let’s give some credit to LeVert for keeping the Nets in the game with his offense.

LeVert had another fiery night. Yep, LeVert was on FIYAH! He led the Nets with a career-high 29 points (10-of-17 FG, 4-of-6 3FG, 5-of-7 FT) with four rebounds, two assists, a season-high three steals and one block in 30 minutes. Let me repeat that, Nah, I won’t; you can read it again if you want. Caris LeVert is moving into NBA All-Star territory. LeVert has already matched or set a new career-high three times through nine games this season, scoring 20-plus points five times this season. By comparison, LeVert didn’t record his fifth 20-point game last season until March 8 at Charlotte. Yes, this season is a different story, through nine games, LeVert is averaging a team-high 20.0 points per game with .489 FG%.

As good as his performance was, LeVert knows that it is a team effort and somewhere the Nets defense was not what it could have been.

“We have to watch the tape,” LeVert said regarding what allowed the third quarter comeback by the Rockets. But it looked like Chris Paul hit a lot of tough shots and then they turned up the defensive pressure. They started getting a lot more loose balls and we just have to be better in those situations.”

So, what can the Nets do to prevent the lapses when the momentum shifts dramatically?

“I think just focusing more on defense instead of offense,” LeVert added. “Sometimes you can’t control the offense. If you make shots and things like that. You can always control your defense and your effort. So I think that in those situations, we just have to focus on getting shots.”

AUDIO: IN HIS OWN WORDS: BROOKLYN NETS GUARD, CARIS LEVERT

Nets other high scorers were Joe Harris with 18 points and four assists; D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie (off the bench) each scored 12 points and three assists, and Russell added three rebounds. Shabazz Napier came off the bench and scored 11 points in 16 minutes, while center Jarrett Allen chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

The Houston Rockets only had four players scoring in double digits, but that’s all they needed, as they all scored more than 20 points each. Chris Paul led all scorers with 32 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds. Former New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony came off the bench scoring 28 points and four rebounds for his new team; Clint Capela registered 22 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists, while; Eric Gordon added 21 points and three assists.

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni liked what he saw in his guys.

“That was a good Chris Paul right there,” D’Antoni said. “That was as good as it gets. And again, that’s who Chris is. His will, his heart will not let you lose, especially when times are tough. He knew times were tough and he had to find even more within himself and he did it. That’s why he is one of the best. He has such an unbelievable spirit that won’t let you lose.”

VIDEO: IN HIS OWN WORDS: CHRIS PAUL, HOUSTON ROCKETS GUARD

D’Antoni also praised Carmelo Anthony’s production coming off the bench with hopes that there is more to come.

“That’s what we envisioned. Obviously, he can’t shoot that well every night – maybe he can, hope he can. That’s kind of the role we envision, shooting threes and doing what Carmelo does. He’s super good that way.”

The Houston Rockets are on to another road game, as they will play the Chicago Bulls tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT.

On tomorrow, Sunday, November 4, 2018, the Brooklyn Nets will host the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center at 6:00 p.m. ET.

What will be the aftermath following the Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor fight?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: POPPIN – PART 1

• The Jimmy Butler saga continues. At last count, the Miami Heat and the L.A Clippers were vying for Jimmy Butler’s services. What’s complicating Butler’s trade is that Gorgui Dieng must be part of the deal.

Q. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves deal Jimmy Butler before the start of the NBA season?

Kyrie Irving is the man! First, Jimmy Butler, now it’s Anthony Davis that says he wants to play with Kyrie Irving in Boston. According to league sources, Davis will probably end up with the Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers.

Q. Let’s dream a bit, can you imagine a Boston team with Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Anthony Davis? If not Boston, where would you rather see Anthony Davis?

• Billed as one of the most significant fights in UFC history. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor had their very anticipated showdown and Khabib won.

Q. What was not expected was the fight’s aftermath. Should the fight organizers have been more prepared for a potential melee?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: QUICK BITES

LeBron James was considering joining the Toronto Raptors before he finalized his move to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, it seems both sides were interested in reaching an agreement.

• The family of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau has settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL. Seau died from suicide at the age of 43; his death followed a long battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.

Drew Brees passes Peyton Manning as NFL's all-time passing leader: New Orleans Saint quarterback Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning's record of 71,940 career passing yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the second quarter of a game against Washington. New Orleans defeated Washington 43-19, ouch!!!

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: POPPIN – PART 2

• Former Louisville men’s basketball head coach, Rick Pitino, has been promoting his new book, entitled Pitino: My Story. He says he never wants to coach basketball again.

Q. Do you believe Pitino?

• Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul has taken offense to the criticisms of fellow teammate, Carmelo Anthony, calling the criticism of Melo disrespectful.

Q. Do you think Chris Paul is right that the media may have gone too far with their assessment of Carmelo Anthony?

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

What’s The 411’s Photo of the Week is a photo of Saquon Barkley making a touchdown during the New York Giants game against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium.

NY SPORTS REPORT

• We have a preseason look at the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks.

• New York Yankees Update: The Yankees made it into the ALDS and will play the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 tonight.

• Discord has visited upon the NY Giants.

Q. Are the New York Giants on the brink of falling apart?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS OFF TOPIC:

Summer vacation is officially over, and Khloe Kardashian was headed back to Cleveland to be with baby True’s father, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and decided to stay in Los Angeles.

Timberwolves owner seeks to trade Jimmy Butler, but no deal yet

KEISHA: Welcome to this week's edition of What's The 411Sports. I'm Keisha Wilson and I'm Mike McDonald. Mike, we have so much to talk about. So we're just going to get to it.

The NBA season is upon us. And as of this taping, the Jimmy Butler saga continues. Butler is demanding a trade and he also said he's not going to show up for training camp nor was he present during the Timberwolves media day. Now, Timberwolves owner, Glen Taylor, had a demand of his own that Jimmy Butler is to be traded sooner than later, preferably before the start of training camp.

Now, Jimmy is reportedly asking for a change to the Brooklyn Nets, the Clippers, and the New York Knicks. However, the Knicks are reportedly not interested in Butler's services. Now, Mike, you are a Knicks fan. News of the reported disinterest by the Knicks of having Jimmy Butler on their team is getting the fans livid.

Do you think that the fans should be upset and are you upset if the Knicks pass on Jimmy Butler?

MIKE: No, I'm not. I think for the Knicks, they really want to build for the future. And you know, from their standpoint, look, you can't bring on a guy like Jimmy Butler who's been struggling to play with some younger players and then you bring him onto the Knicks where they're also filled with the young roster as well. I think you're kind of just asking for trouble.

I think what a lot of Knick fans are thinking here is they're looking at the numbers. They're looking at these fantastic, All-Star caliber numbers that Jimmy Butler has put up over the course of the last several seasons, but at the same time, I feel like it would not necessarily be a good fit for the Knicks. I think the plan is to build for the future. The Knicks right now are not necessarily a win now team and I think by giving up some of the pieces that they've sort of picked up over the course of the last several years, I think that that's going to wind up hurting them in a long run.

Now, I get it, it is enticing to go after a guy like Butler bring him in try to get him signed up, right, and then at the same time, maybe try to make a push for Kyrie Irving when all is said and done. But I just think right now, the Knicks should stand pat and I don't see that they should go make a move for Jimmy Butler.

KEISHA: I wholeheartedly agree, and according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, reports of Butler's interest in the Knicks were overstated. So, allegedly, Butler wants to win sooner rather than later which would not put the Knicks in contention. And, which also makes the fact that Brooklyn Nets are on his list a head-scratcher, but that might be more for money because the Brooklyn Nets, have room to offer a max contract.

So, I definitely agree with you. I don't think that the Knicks aren't interested. It's just that they're sticking to their philosophy. They have learned from the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York City in exchange for pretty much decimating their future. They want, they have a new coach, they have new players, and they want to build a culture, and; they feel as though they want to build that culture through the young talent that they have and the draft picks that they have and maybe will acquire again.

And, in terms of a trade, with (Kristaps) Porzingis not on the trading block, the Knicks don't have a lot to offer, so their next valuable assets are their draft picks. But they want to hold on to them. So they're going to take a calculated risk to see if they can get Jimmy Butler in free agency where they don't have to give up any of their assets for him.

And then also, you know, like you mentioned, the fans are salivating over a possible Butler-Irving pairing in New York. However, If Jimmy Butler goes elsewhere, there goes that dream. And then Kyrie Irving has said on the record that he hadn't talked to you Jimmy Butler about that pairing or what his career is going to look like since 2016. So, Kyrie may not even want to come to New York. We don't know how his season with Boston will be this year and he may actually want to stay with a contender.

MIKE: Yeah. Well, it's going to be interesting Keisha to see how it all plays out.

 

Carmelo Anthony responds to questions about his position with the Houston Rockets

MIKE: Well, Kelly Iko, the Houston Rockets beat reporter for The Athletic, reported on Twitter that Carmelo Anthony and PJ Tucker probably will not be seen on the floor together at the same time this season. According to the tweet from Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni, he wants Carmelo on the floor when Tucker is off and vice versa. D'Antoni sees them both as fours. So, how is this going to work out? We all know that Carmelo does not want to come off the bench. Keisha, will there be harmony in Houston?

KEISHA: Mike, I'm going to start off with a quote, "whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship. That's what's going to be done."

Who said that, none other than Carmelo Anthony. Now, this is not a definite admission that he is willing to come off the bench. However, this is a move from the outright scoff that he gave when he was in Oklahoma City and a reporter mentioned him coming off the bench. He just pooh-poohed that right off the bat and basically told the reporter like, you don't know...that's just ridiculous, how dare you even mention it's ludicrous.

Now, so we might be moving in the right direction. However, why is it that we must assume that Carmelo has to come off the bench? I know that he's you know, it seems like Carmelo is paying for the sins of Oklahoma City. I think that that wasn't the right fit for him and it showed, he had one of his worst seasons in his entire career and when I think about him being in New York before he went to OKC for that one year. He was still the Carmelo that we knew so I just found it hard to believe that his skills just dropped off that that quickly and that drastically.

So he is with Houston now, he's with Chris Paul who was very close to him off the court. He spoke with Chris Paul and he spoke to James Harden and they play pick-up games and there seems to be a real flow, a real chemistry, and those two see how he can be effective within the Houston Rockets offense. But now, it's time for Mike D'Antoni head coach of the Rockets to show us what he can do.

MIKE: Which if it was something that he didn't think that he could do, then the Rockets never would have gone after Carmelo Anthony in the offseason. I think that the Rockets have a nice team here, they make they came so close to getting the NBA Finals after losing to the Golden State Warriors in seven games last season. Look, I think, start or coming off the bench, Carmelo Anthony will have a big impact on this offense this season, there's no question about it.

Keisha, as you pointed out the lack of production that he had in Oklahoma City last season, we saw that there's no question. But what do you expect when you're playing with a guy like Russell Westbrook and of course Paul George, so of course we expected that those numbers were going to decline in which they certainly did. Not to mention I kind of looked at Oklahoma City. Even though yeah, they made the playoffs and everything, but it was almost like it was a season in purgatory for him. He never looked comfortable in that uniform. He never really looked comfortable when he was on the court necessarily. He got off to a very good start those first 10 games I think with OKC but after like, you know a quarter of the season, his numbers started to tail off. He just didn't really seem like he was comfortable and then there was this whole thing was what was his actual role going to be. I think here in Houston, Mike D'Antoni has an opportunity to be very creative here and I think what's ultimately going to wind up happening is they will bring Carmelo off the bench.

I think PJ Tucker, a guy who's one of if not, you know, he's one of the top five defensive players, top 10 defensive players in the NBA. The guy's a force, no question about that. I think he's got to keep him in the rotation. But we also got to remember, you know, injuries can happen things that you know that we don't expect. At the same time, the Rockets could be in the mix to make some upgrades once the season begins because they realize that they are a contender to go ahead and win the Western Conference. But I think like you pointed out, Mike D'Antoni, this is really up to him to kind of figure out what's going to be the best fit for this offense and for this team as they try to make a push to unseat the Golden State Warriors in the West.

Carmelo Anthony’s surprise pronouncement about his role in Houston; Tiger Wins; Brooklyn Nets culture continuity

Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald, the hosts of What’s The 411Sports, are discussing:

Jimmy Butler’s impending trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves;
• The NBA allowing Mark Cuban to keep his team amid the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Dallas Maverick employees;
Odell Beckham, Jr.’s feeling that he could and wants to be more useful to the New York Giants;
Tiger Woods winning his first major golf tournament in five years
• Why some NBA players don’t want to play with LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony acknowledged that he will do whatever it takes to help Houston Rockets win;
• The Brooklyn Nets media day, and;
• The New York Yankees clinch a wild-card spot and Didi Gregorius injures his wrist

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.

If there was a team the New York Knicks needed to face in order to break their 3-game losing streak, it was the Phoenix Suns who came into Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with a 4-9 record and losers of 5 straight. The Knicks, playing the 2nd of 4 straight home games, were coming off their Monday matinee loss at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Both teams split the two games they played last year with each team winning on the road. Head coach Mike D' Antoni, who coached Suns guard Steve Nash for years, knew the team would have its hands full.

"He's one of the best players to ever play the game," said D' Antoni. He works exceptionally hard at what he does. He knows the game exceptionally well. He does everything well."

Steve Nash lived up to the praise D' Antoni heaped upon him as he led all scorers with 16 points and 4 assist in the first half as Phoenix took a 45-42 lead. With Carmelo Anthony still dealing with a sore wrist and ankle, the Knicks wanted to get Amar'e Stoudemire into the offensive flow right from the start. He took the team's first 3 shots, scoring 3 points finishing the quarter with 5 points along with Tyson Chandler. It was enough to give them a 1 point first quarter lead (20-19) even though they shot a paltry 37% from the floor missing 6 of 7 three-pointers.

The second quarter was slightly better for the Knicks as the shooting increased to 42% but they trailed by 3, as the Suns extended the lead to as many as 6 (43-37) after a Marcin Gortat (5-13, 11 points) jump shot. Anthony would miss 4 of 5 shot attempts with Stoudemire ending the quarter with 15 points. Two themes that stood out and would be a factor in the loss was New York's inability to convert free throws and take advantage of them dominating the boards. The final stats would show why.

The Knicks kept things close in the 3rd only trailing by as many as 4 points during any period. Landry Fields, (6-12, 17 points) who played his best game of the year, led all scorers with 10 points. Both teams only scored 19 points leaving the Suns in front (64-61) to begin what would be a back and forth last period. Neither team would trail by more than 3 points in the 4th until the Suns pushed the lead to 7 with 3:22 left after a Shannon Brown slam dunk.

New York battled back with rookie Iman Shumpert (8-14, 20 points) scoring 10 of the team's last 17 points. He hit 2 consecutive 3-pointers, the second bringing the team within 2 points 85-83. With the time running out and no timeouts left, New York was forced to foul sending Nash to the free throw line. He sank 6 in a row, as his team ended its 5-game losing streak. New York took 30 free throws (14 more than Phoenix) and missed 10. They also out-rebounded the Suns by 16 (15 more offensive) and could not take advantage, as they finished shooting 37%.

"It's killing us," stated D' Antoni after the game of the offensive futility. "We won almost every statistical category but couldn't put the ball in the basket." Dominating the boards would normally lead to the team getting out to more fast breaks but for whatever reason, the Knicks were not able to do that. "We tried and did a little better in the fourth quarter. Overall it was not good enough."

After the 91-88 loss, the New York Knicks record fell to 6-8. "We're in a little bit of a crisis," D 'Antoni admitted. "The good thing about it is that they're playing hard, they're playing good defense, they're rebounding."

They're just not winning games.

The New York Knicks finished their 4th straight game at home riding a Murphy's Law 5-game losing streak. That's right, anything that could have gone wrong for them during the slide did go wrong. They began the home-stand on a 4-game winning streak to improve their record to 6-4. Two road losses evened their record but they looked to take advantage coming back to the Garden. The first 3 games turned out to be a horror as they would lose to two teams that had worse records than they did.

After losing to Phoenix, head coach Mike D 'Antoni declared the team was in "crisis". They followed up that performance by getting embarrassed by Milwaukee. The night ended with Carmelo Anthony getting ejected. No one knew what to expect when they took the floor Saturday night against the 11-5 Denver Nuggets. It was the first time the two teams faced each other since the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony here while sending fan favorite Danilo Gallinari to Denver. Both teams and the principals involved wanted to show that the trade was justified. Only one of them was right.

Denver took a 1 point first-period lead (25-24) as Anthony's shooting troubles (10-30, 25 points) continued. He missed 5 of his first 6 shots while Gallinari only scored from the free throw line converting all 6 attempts. The bench, which had contributed practically nothing during the skid, came to life in the second. Bill Walker nailed all 3 of his 3 point attempts scoring 13 points. Toney Douglas chipped in 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting (2, 3-pointers) as the Knicks took an 8 point halftime lead. The ball movement that had been stagnant during the losing streak flowed, allowing New York to get open, uncontested shots. That all changed in the third period.

Turning the ball over 4 straight times allowed the Nuggets to cut the lead to 2 (54-52) after an Andre Miller lay-up. The Knicks regrouped to extend the lead to 8 (67-59) on a Landry Fields lay-up after an Iman Shumpert offensive rebound. Denver then closed the period on a 13-5 run, tying the game at 72 to end the period. Al Harrington, who was also included in the trade, would have an impact on the outcome of the game. Harrington, who never saw eye-to-eye with D 'Antoni, played like he wanted to beat the Knicks all by himself. He missed 8 of his first 11 shots (6 points) but came to life in the deciding period.

"Early I couldn't get nothing going," he said of his slow start. "It was very frustrating. In my mind I wanted to play great. Every time you come against your old team home you want to have a good performance."

Harrington (10-24, 24 points) then showed the offensive firepower he displayed while a member of the Knicks. He scored 15 points in the fourth period, connecting on three, 3-point attempts. His last lay-up gave Denver a 3 point lead (97-94). The Knicks managed to send the game into the first overtime after Anthony scored the final 4 points.

Both teams scored 7 points in the first overtime with New York going up by 3 (103-100) after Anthony hit another 3-pointer. Fate wouldn't be on the Knicks side this night, evidenced by the Andre Miller 3-pointer after a wild scramble in front of the New York bench.
Said D 'Antoni, "that shot killed us."

Nene converted two free throws that sent the game into the second overtime. Gallinari then showed why Knick fans were not happy when he was shipped to Denver.

He scored 10 of Denver's 14 points in the second overtime, 7 coming from the free throw line. Playing more than 51 minutes, he scored 37 points on 9 of 19 shooting, making 18 of 20 free throws.

"He's a good player," said D 'Antoni of Gallinari. "He's hard to guard and he's tough."

The New York fans in attendance gave him a nice ovation when he was introduced at the start of the game.

Smiling in the locker-room after the game he said, "I like to thank all the fans because that means they remember all the good things I did for the team and the franchise. It was great."

Quick Knicks Notes: The Knicks lost for the 6th straight time as their record fell to 6-10 (4 in a row at the Garden) and the team starts a 4-game road trip in Charlotte Tuesday...Amar'e Stoudemire had a very weird night. He hit 3 of his first 4 shots (6 points) to start the game and ended up taking only 5 more shots the rest of the game converting only one. That basket, a 3 pointer, came with 7.6 seconds left in the second overtime when Denver had all but sealed the game.

Knicks Cage Bobcats

March 30, 2013

New York Knicks Keep Winning Streak Alive Beating Charlotte Bobcats 111-102

Riding the current longest NBA winning streak (6 games) after the Heat streak was broken at 27 by the Chicago Bulls this past Wednesday, the New York Knicks faced a Charlotte Bobcats team that had only won 17 games when they stepped on the Madison Square Garden hardwood floor Friday night. Head coach Mike Woodson was not concerned about getting his team up against a club that had lost 54 games up to this point.

"They're next in line," Woodson said prior to tip-off. "It doesn't matter who we play. It's all about what we do as a team. We've been playing some pretty good basketball as of late. We're trying to stay at the top of our division. This is an important game. Every game from here on out is important for our ball club."

Right from the start, New York treated Charlotte like the team with the worst record (Orlando started the night with 18 wins) in the league. Like they did Wednesday night against Memphis, the Knicks jumped out to a huge first-period lead (38-20) behind 13 Carmelo Anthony points. J.R. Smith continued his scorching play. He chipped in 9 points (4-6 shooting) looking to score more than 30 points for the third straight game. Iman Shumpert, who hit his first 3-pointers against Memphis, picked up right where he left off. Eight of his points came from behind the three-point arc. Shumpert has converted 6 of 8 three-pointers in the last two games.

By halftime, the contest (if that's what you want to call it) resembled the latest NBA video game, as the Knicks lead ballooned to as many as 30 points (58-28) with Smith adding 14 more points. As a team, New York shot a blistering 62% from the floor including an eye-opening 75% from 3 point land. The Bobcats never had a chance as they were in the crosshairs of the Knicks all night.

Unlike the Grizzlies game, when the Knicks saw its 30 point lead dwindle to five, Charlotte really never made it a game even though they did outscore the Knicks 31-22 in the final period. The Bobcats managed to close the gap to 7 (104-97) but Smith did it on the defensive end with a steal, leading to free throws by Anthony sealing the game.

The streak extends to seven games with Smith scoring 37 points and pretty much locking up the NBA's 6th man award. Something his head coach said was a reasonable goal at the start of the year. His teammates have been impressed.

"He (Smith) is focused," said Anthony. "He is dialed in, locked in. His confidence is sky high. We are following his lead."

Knicks guard Jason Kidd, who began the year starting but now is coming off the bench, compared Smith to a golfer saying "he's putting well. He hasn't hit a bad drive. He's playing as well as anybody right now."

It's been a long time in the memory of Smith since he can recall playing this well.

"I haven't been on a streak like this since high school," he said.

The New York Knicks went on their customary west coast drought (1-4) dealing with injuries and could have easily fallen off the top of the division. Smith found his game at the right time becoming only the second player since 1990 to score more than 30 points in 3 straight games coming off the bench. The Knicks winning streak extends to seven games when they host the Boston Celtics Sunday night.

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