Could the old Knicks, who went 6-0 to start the season, finally be resurfacing?
During that stretch, at least four players finished with double-figure points in every game, and they were second in the NBA in scoring (103.5 points per game). They went on to post a 20-8 record through their first 28 games of the season -- until their starting point guard Raymond Felton got injured, and they were still without Iman Shumpert and Amar'e Stoudemire.
But in Saturday night's shellacking of the Kings, Felton, Shumpert and Stoudemire were in the mix, along with Carmelo Anthony & Co., as the Knicks scored 120 points, had a season-high 34 assists and matched their season-high for 3-pointers with 19. Five players scored in double figures.
“When you play games like that and 3s are falling, Amar’e is dunking, Tyson [Chandler] is dunking, everybody is shooting 3s, passing, everything’s just fun," Felton said. "That’s the way we were playing like at the beginning of the year, so just to get back to that is a good sign.”
Anthony only needed to post nine points -- his lowest amount since Nov. 15 -- which stopped his franchise-record streak of games with 20 points or more at 31. But it was Melo's distribution early on that helped the Knicks overcome a 10-3 deficit in the first quarter. With 4:15 to play in the opening period, he dished to Stoudemire for a fast-break dunk. Later, he delivered a skip pass to J.R. Smith for a 3-pointer, and then attacked to find Smith again for another 3, which capped off a 22-7 run to close the quarter and put the Knicks ahead.
Smith also came up big in the first quarter. After he missed his first two jumpers, he took his game inside and connected on an alley-oop dunk from Felton's feed. Then, he helped lead three different breakaways, which all led to scores -- two by Stoudemire, who finished with 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting. The Kings' initial poison was their transition game, but Smith's energy and point guard abilities in the open court proved to be even more lethal.
In the second half, Smith was then the recipient of great ball movement. He finished with a team-high 25 points on 7-for-14 from 3-point range. His downtown shooting -- as well as Steve Novak's (5-for-7) -- was actually sparked by Anthony running pick-and-rolls. The setup put even more pressure on the Kings, because he's such a switch nightmare, and his presence created open lanes for shots and passes.
"That's something we work on," Melo said. "Some teams switch, some teams trap the pick-and-roll. That gives us more options to find Tyson or find other guys."
And boy, did they have a lot of options tonight. They were so hot from beyond the arc that even backup center Kurt Thomas nailed one.
"I feel like we've got the best bench in basketball," Chandler said. "Our bench is very deep, especially with Amar'e in the lineup."
Chandler and his teammates made a big statement tonight becoming the first Eastern Conference team to reach 30 wins -- and the mood in the locker room was that of a confident bunch, believing still they have a legitimate shot at a title this season.