December 12, 2018

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.

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.

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.

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.

Brandon Jennings scored a game and season-high 36 points for the Bucks, and Carmelo Anthony finished with a team-high 35 points for the New York Knicks

With the New York Knicks offense struggling and the team on a 5-game losing streak, head coach Mike D 'Antoni can't wait until Baron Davis gets healthy enough to bring stability and veteran leadership to the backcourt. It may not happen for a couple of more weeks, but it's not because of a lack of effort on Davis' part.

Prior to the game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night, Davis talked about his health and the state of the team. It hasn't been easy watching the team go through the offensive funk that has them averaging only 88 points in their 8 losses. They have scored over 100 points only 3 times, winning 2 of those games. Defensively they have been better than in the past under D 'Antoni giving up 100 points or more in 4 out of the 14 games they've played. With Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire on the floor, points should not be hard to come by. Both have been in a funk evidenced by their poor performance in the Wednesday night loss to Phoenix. They combined for 35 points but needed 44 shots to do so. Only Stoudemire's free throws (9 out of 10) made his final line look respectable. Granted, Anthony has been hampered by a sore wrist and ankle and Stoudemire may still be dealing with a sore back, but as a team, they have not moved the ball well enough to give their teammates open looks and uncontested shots. That's where Davis is hoping to contribute when he's ready to play.

"I can shoot, dribble and a lot of spot shooting," said Davis sitting in front of his locker.

He basically does this alone with the help of the assistant coaches and watched closely by the training staff. He's doing things in moderation while working on conditioning drills.

"It's a process," he continued. "It's strength, it's conditioning, it's balance. It's being able to do that on a consistent basis day in and day out and wake up the next day and be ready to progress forward. I'm making leaps and bounds and huge strides to get myself on the court."

In the meantime, when the ball goes up in the air, Davis is relegated to being a cheerleader and teacher. When Toney Douglas' poor early season play forced D 'Antoni to bench him in favor of first-year guard Iman Shumpert, Davis had already been mentoring him while he was waiting to come off the bench. He was giving Shumpert advice and making sure he never lost confidence. Shumpert isn't his only pupil.

"We have a lot of young guys on the team," Davis continued. "If I see a weakness in a defender on the floor I will talk with Toney or Shumpert about it. I try and work with the younger guys to get them to hone in on the fundamentals. As we proceed thru the season, those are the things that are going to push us over the top."

As he watches his team from the bench, dressed to the nines, Baron Davis is learning the offense he will be running as soon as his back can handle the everyday pounding. As easy as it may look from his vantage point, putting it into action with a new group won't be easy. He doesn't think it will take that long to pick things up.

"I'm the type of person that I pick up things very, very quickly when I'm out there."

He will do that with a starting line-up that is still trying to develop offensive cohesiveness.

"Any time you have these many new faces in a system, it takes everyone to really catch a rhythm and to get on a roll. You have to be patient. Offensively I know that will come around."

It didn't come around against the Bucks as New York fell behind early in the fourth quarter by as many as 17 points in their 100-86 loss. Brandon Jennings, who torched the Knicks the last time he touched the Madison Square Garden floor for 37 points, scored a game and season-high 36 points. Carmelo Anthony finished with a team-high 35 points but his frustration showed after with 1:33 left in the game as he was hit with his second technical foul resulting in his ejection. The Knicks lost for the 5th straight time and their 3rd straight at home. D 'Antoni said the team was in "crisis" after Wednesday's loss. You can add turmoil as well.

"It's the whole team," he said afterward. "We are just not sharp. It looks like they are running circles around us. It is not just one guy. We wouldn't be this bad. Again, we have to dig deeper and get through this."

Getting Baron Davis on the floor would be a good start.

Knicks Defeat Raptors 106-87 and Stay Perfect Under Mike Woodson 

The three-game winning-streak followed the six-game losing streak cost the New York Knicks head coach Mike D' Antoni his job. The winning-streak has breathed life back into the team's NBA playoff life. It has given interim head coach Mike Woodson a platform to instill in his players how much is at stake as the season winds down.

There were 21 games when the Knicks hosted the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. They will face each other for the last time this year in three days in Toronto after splitting their previous two games both teams winning on the road. Except for pride, Toronto has nothing to play for with their 15-30 record. That may have been the only reason they gave the Knicks a hard time.

Led by DeMar DeRozan (6 points) Toronto and the Knicks were tied 3 times in the first period, with no team leading by more than 1 point after the first Raptors basket gave them a 2-0 lead. Down by one, the Knicks go on 7-0 run to take a 21-15 lead. Toronto closed the gap to three to end the period (27-24) after a Linas Kleiza three-pointer at the buzzer.

With New York sensing that the longer they allowed Toronto to feel they belonged, the harder it would be to put them away, Woodson once again called on his bench to slow the Raptors down. With the game tied once again at 29, Steve Novak hit his customary three-pointer, extending the lead to 7 again 36-29. Toronto clawed back to two (36-34) after a Gary Forbes lay-up. It's as close as the Raptors would get the rest of the period as the Knicks outscored them 13-4 over the next 5-plus minutes for the biggest lead of the half (49-38). J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Jared Jeffries and Steve Novak contributed 17 points off the pine.

Except for an early lapse at the start of the third period, the Knicks defense stiffened when the Raptors dwindled the lead to 7 (57-50) after an Andrea Bargnani running hook shot. Thirteen must have been the lucky number for the Knicks as they once again rattled off those points allowing Toronto only four, taking a 16-point lead (70-54) and never looked back in the 106-87 victory.

Said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, "they turned up the juice and we didn't meet the challenge. Anytime you give up 16 offensive boards, our turnovers are the two things that hurt us."

When the New York Knicks lost to the Chicago Bulls last week, they gave up 22 offensive rebounds leading to 24 points in the five-point loss. It was an eye-opener for the team.

Said Woodson, "that's been a big problem all season," he started. "Us putting bodies on bodies to secure the rebound. I stress that every game before every game. Five guys are going to block out and rebound the basketball. Then we go and play offense. We've done a better job as of late."

Although Jeremy Lin and the "Linsanity" have quieted down, his numbers are starting to reflect what put him on the map in the first place. He finished his night with his seventh double-double of the year scoring 18 points and 10 assists.

"We just moved the ball and try to pick apart the defense and took whatever the defense gave us. I thought we were patient as a team," he said.

Amar'e Stoudemire led all scorers with 22 points with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler adding 17 each.

The New York Knicks traveled by Amtrak right after the game to face the division-leading Philadelphia 76ers. They are looking to avenge the March 11th home loss.

Landry Fields knows how important the game is: "We have already talked about it. We're trying to rise in the standings. It's an important game for us."

New York Knicks defeat the Philadelphia 76ers with the final score of 85-79

One of the hottest teams in the NBA came into Madison Square Garden Wednesday night riding a 6-game winning streak. With a 7-2 record and leading the Atlantic division, the Philadelphia 76ers had not given up more than 100 points during the streak. The New York Knicks meanwhile was riding a modest 3-game winning streak of their own after Monday's win against the Charlotte Bobcats. They began the night two games behind the Sixers and looked to close the gap before starting a two-game road trip against Memphis and Oklahoma City.

They faced each other four times last year splitting the series. Prior to the game, Knicks head coach Mike D' Antoni stressed the importance of limiting Philadelphia's fast break.

"We have to get back in transition," he started. "We can't feed their fast break."

New York caught a break when Sixers center Spencer Hawes, one of 7 players to average more than 9 points a game, did not play due to a strained lower back.

For the first time all year, New York came out with a purpose. They ended the 1st quarter on a 13-0 run and a 28-15 lead. Carmelo Anthony scored 9 points and rookie Josh Harrellson (7 points) came off the bench and hit his first two jumpers, the second a 3-pointer.

Tony Douglas continued the long-range assault burying his first jumper, another 3-pointer to extend the lead to 31-15. Defensively they limited Philadelphia to only 32% from the floor, as they missed 6 of 7 three-pointers.

Where Anthony left off in the initial quarter, teammate Amar'e Stoudemire took over in the second. He scored 9 points to lead both teams as the Knicks took a 10 point (45-35) halftime lead. The Sixers did not attempt a 3-point shot in the quarter but their overall shooting rose to a respectable 42%. When the Knicks defeated Charlotte two nights ago, they attempted 40 free throws making 30 of them. They only saw the free stripe 3 times in the first half converting all of them.

Philadelphia began the third quarter outscoring New York 10-4 narrowing the lead to 4 (49-45). Anthony extended the score to 8 (58-50) after two straight baskets. After the first basket (a driving lay-up), he got tangled underneath with Andre Iguodala and both are hit with technical fouls. It seemed to light a fire under Anthony as he hit his next two jumpers giving them a 62-56 lead. After two more Anthony free throws, that man Harrellson burns the Sixers again hitting his third 3-pointer of the game taking an 11-point (67-56) lead into the final quarter.

Said D' Antoni of Harrellson's play so far this year, "Josh played well a lot. Some of the things you don't see. He's very strong, very smart defensively. I just think he's going to keep getting better if he can consistently make that outside shot."

The Sixers dug themselves into a deeper hole at the start of the final quarter as the Knicks opened up a 17 point lead (78-61). The hot shooting that propelled New York suddenly went cold and the Sixers took advantage going on a 10-0 run to close the gap to 7 points (78-71). From that point, neither team could find the basket for the rest of the game. No field goals were scored in the final 5:51. In that span, Anthony missed 5 shots and turned the ball over 3 times. It caught the attention of the head coach, as he witnessed the offensive woes that kept the Sixers in the game.

"We'll talk about it," a giggling D'Antoni said. "Carmelo is very effective at what he does. You got to be careful about talking too much. He's a competitor and he knows how to play. We just got to get things straight with the whole team."

Philly wasn't much better as they missed their 6 shot attempts. New York hit 7 free throws, Philly hit 8 down the stretch, but could not get any closer than the final score of 85-79.

The New York Knicks have now played two division games and have won both of them. They have struggled offensively more than they would like to. Defensively, they seem to be improving.

"We added two really good pieces in Shumpert and Tyson (Chandler) when you have that, then they feel even more engaged. It's just contagious."

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