Of course, the Nets were without Paul Pierce and Deron Williams, but they’ve been awful even when they suit up and the win was very much a step in the right direction. The most obvious change was the level of aggressiveness the Knicks played with, particularly on the offense end. From the outset, they looked to set up some early offense to get better looks at the hoop, penetrating into the paint to kick the ball out to perimeter shooters.
Andrea Bargnani was killing the Nets with his pump fake in the first, fooling defender after defender en route to easy shots. He even blew by Kevin Garnett for a very impressive (for him) baseline dunk (he’d later get ejected for talking trash to KG after hitting a jumper, which is the most hilarious thing that’s happened all season). Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert had bounce-back games. Shump looked the most comfortable he’s looked all season. He pushed the tempo and stepped into his jumpers with confidence, knocking down 5 of his first 6 three-point attempts. Felton knocked down a few nice jumpers off the bounce during the Knicks’ opening flurry (they scored a solid 29 points in the first quarter).
The offense got bogged down late in the second quarter when a series of Carmelo Anthony isolation plays disrupted the team’s ball movement. Fortunately, Melo was hitting a lot of those tough attempts, but he’ll need to rein those in a bit against tougher competition. When he looked to distribute, particularly in pick-and-rolls with Amar’e Stoudemire, the results were consistently very positive. The Knicks blew the game open in the third as the offense got rolling again and the threes started dropping in bunches. They would end up hitting a red-hot 16 of their 27 three-point attempts. This was exactly the kind of shooting performance they needed to build their confidence back up.
Defensively, the Knicks looked a lot better than usual, though the Nets did a lot to help them look better. Brooklyn ran an incredibly simple offense, often with just a simple pick-and-roll or a straight post-up followed by 20 seconds of everyone standing around doing nothing. Bargnani did a fantastic job defending Brook Lopez in the post (he had a very nice block in the first quarter), but the Nets definitely made his job easier by not creating the movement necessary to get him deep post position. The Knicks generally did a solid job of guarding their individual assignments, but they broke down a handful of times when the Nets would actually bother to swing the ball from side to side.
New York played hard all game and picked up a feel-good win on the road against an Atlantic Division rival. They’ll soon be facing a very easy stretch in their schedule. If the Knicks can continue to move the ball on offense, they could put themselves in a nice position to bounce back from their early struggles.