Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New York win helps keep Knicks in playoff picture

The Knicks cruise to 19-point win over the Raptors, 106-87, extending their winning streak to four games. New York didn't dominate this game but they still were able to finish with a decisive win. Jeremy Lin had a double-double with 18 points and dishing out 10 assists with 3 turnovers. Amare Stoudemire was also solid with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Four of the New York starters finished with at least 17 points as well. Off the bench, J.R. Smith continued his solid play scoring 11 points and grabbing 3 offensive rebounds in less than twenty minutes on the floor. Smith made smart plays and showed great hustle on the floor. The whole team showed good energy on the boards grabbing 46 total rebounds including 16 offensive rebounds. The Raptors only had four offensive rebounds.

The Woodson defensive scheme for the night was to pressure the Toronto ball handlers at and beyond the arc. They did a great job and held Toronto to just 2 of 13 three point shooting. Andrea Bargnani shot only 0 for 4 from three. The Knicks was swarming at points in the game and forced 17 turnovers including an impressive 12 steals.

The Knicks generally played well but they still had their problems. We saw more isolation tonight from the offense. The players and ball movement tended to slow during these periods but the team still finished with 23 assists. The Knicks also shot poorly from both three point range (5 of 16) and the free throw line (23 of 33).

Toronto was able to keep the game within reach until midway in the third when the Knicks pulled away by fifteen. Around this point, there was a mini-meltdown, highlighted by center Aaron Gray, who was ejected for arguing and proceeded to kick the game ball. The Raptors still were able to fight back and bring the game to an eight point deficit in the fourth. The Knicks were eventually able to pull away. Toney Douglas was even able to see his first minutes since mid-February. But Douglas wasn't too impressive in his playing time.

Overall, the Knicks did well enough to win and win big. They were up 21 points until a late Toronto field goal cut the score to 19. But they let the Raptors, a below average team, stick around way longer then they should have allowed. The game was close until the third period and was even still in reach during the fourth. Compared to the Indiana game where the Knicks both nights had a solid lead going into half. This type of uneven play might haunt the team if they do make the playoffs.

At this point, New York is two game below .500 (22-24) and hold the 8th and final playoff spot. They are a game ahead of the Bucks and 2.5 games behind the Celtics in the 7th spot. The Knicks would like to finish as high as possible, and preferably at least in the sixth spot to avoid a possible Miami, or Chicago match-up in the first round. New York's dream situation would be to overtake Philadelphia (26-20) for the divisional lead which would guarantee them at least the fourth seed in the playoffs. Which would likely eliminate a possible the worst possible match-ups for the Knicks in the first round.

New York is only 4 games back from the Sixers, but the shorten season makes taking the divisional lead more difficult. The Knicks and Sixers both have only 20 games left in the season. Hard to make a swing in this limited amount of games. The Knicks schedule also gets harder over the final month of the season with eleven of the final twenty games are against playoff teams. New York will face the league best Chicago twice, and the Heat once during this period.

The Knicks will have a lot of work ahead of them to not only make the playoffs but avoid a low seeding. They will have an opportunity tomorrow night, in Philly, to close the gap with the Sixers. Currently the Knicks have split the season series against the Sixers 1-1, winning the first game of the season but losing the second earlier this month. The Sixers will also be well rested going into tomorrow's game as they last played on the March 17th.

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