With 14 wins and just 4 losses, the New York Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are a win away from being tied for the best record in the entire NBA. Ah it feels so good to say that. But as long-suffering Knicks fans know too well, it’s too early to get overly excited. In the mean time repeat the first sentence of this article until it sinks in. I for one cannot stop smiling and I am even being friendly to strangers on the subway. Strangely it isn’t coming from the giddiness of holiday spirit. It comes from being a fan of a team that is finally making me proud after a decade of torture.
I will summarize our games from November 15th through December 7th:
Win @ San Antonio - Knicks showed grit and determination, making a late comeback and beating a contender who hasn’t lost to us on their home floor in almost a decade. Melo was being trapped, bumped, and harrassed on defense but showed off his newfound leadership skills by showing trust in his teammates. Jason Kidd hit some timely 3′s and Felton made Parker work on both ends of the floor. 6-0.
Loss @ Memphis – It’s tough playing back-to-back away games against 2 of the best teams in the NBA. A 1-1 split is a big coup, considering we would never have expected that to happen with last seasons team. We went toe-to-toe with a Grizzlies team that recently blew out the Miami Heat and was playing in front of their home crowd. The officiating was questionable but the Knicks let it get to them by arguing, racking up technical fouls, and frustration fouls. Besides for their abysmal 3rd quarter, they showed again that they can hang with the elites. Rasheed Wallace showed some flashes of his old self by dominating in the low post, so that was a positive takeaway. Every team is hungry to beat the only undefeated team, so there is no shame in losing to the Grizzlies. 6-1.
Win vs Indiana – Winning home games is what Woodson is preaching since that’s what dominant teams do. NY wowed their home crowd and showed the Pacers what an elite team looks like. Tyson Chandler made All-Star center Roy Hibbert look like a rookie again by shutting him down and forcing him out of his comfort zone. 7-1.
Win @ New Orleans - A 22 point win against a bad team without its best player is not a huge statement but it is an away game and the Hornets are well coached. This is what good teams do, they win the winnable games. 8-1.
Loss @ Dallas – After beating Dallas at home they wanted to return the favor. Another back-to-back away game clearly showed how tired the Knicks were. The Knicks calling-card is to hold teams under 90 points and not turn the ball over (lead the league). They played sloppy and gave up 114 points instead. This was a close game that could have been won if not for a late whistle on a questionable offensive foul called on Melo. A spoiled homecoming for Kidd and Chandler. 8-2.
Loss @ Houston – This was supposed to be Linsanity meets the new bad-boy Knicks. It ended up being the James Harden show. Chandler Parsons is having a breakout year and the Knicks clearly did not gameplan for him. Omer Asik was a rebounding monster and out worked Chandler on every play. NY just didn’t bring any energy. Melo is the only guy who came ready to play. The result: giving up 131 points to an average team. Woodson chewed out his team after the game, challenging them to see what they are made of by responding to adversity. This is a fairly old and worn team so there will be bad stretches. 8-3.
Win vs Detroit – Protecting home court and beating bad teams is just what the doctor ordered. The Pistons are good to play against recently, as the Knicks keep blowing them out, giving needed rest to their starters. 9-3.
Loss @ Brooklyn – On a back-to-back night in a crazy and loud atmosphere, the Knicks nearly beat a very good Nets team that wanted to win the first subway series on their home floor. The crowd obviously was torn between fans of both squads. Jason Kidd sat out against his former team and the lack of chemistry showed. Melo started playing hero ball in front of his hometown crowd and nearly won the game on a makeable jumpshot in the closing seconds. The Nets won a tight battle in overtime with Raymond Felton having a rare off night and Woodson experimenting with a short rotation. He regretted that decision as he realized our depth must be utilized to get the most out of our veterans’ minutes. Tyson Chandler was flawless. Moral victory. 9-4.
Win @ Milwaukee - Novakaine numbed his home-town crowd with his shooting barrage. NY showed a Bucks team that was a thorn in their side last year that they are no longer all fluff, they are all substance. 10-4.
Win vs Washington – The Wizards had not won a game all season and the Knicks weren’t going to let them get their first W on their home floor. Another blowout of a bad team. 11-4.
Win vs Phoenix – The Suns gave NY all they had. Every time the Knicks took a big lead they kept coming back. They have a below average team but enough veterans and heady players to make teams work for victories. Chris Copeland gave a much needed boost by doing it all in his limited minutes after Sheed was tossed for his 2 quick techs. Cope deserves a shot but Woody makes his rookies work hard and prove themselves. He was a scoring machine in the preseason and looks good whenever he plays. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get minutes later on in the year in place of Kurt Thomas. Unfortunately he’ll have to battle Thomas, Sheed, Melo, Amare, Brewer and Novak for minutes. Good win nonetheless. 12-4.
Win @ Charlotte – Kemba Walker was running circles around the Knicks but hometown hero Raymond Felton pushed back and fought through a wrist injury he sustained against the Suns. The Cats are actually a solid team and can no longer be looked at as an easy win on the schedule. J.R. Smith hit the first game-winning buzzer beater of his entire NBA career (which is hard to believe since the man loves to shoot). 13-4.
Win @Miami – on a back-to-back night after a hard fought, down to the wire win, the Knicks enter into the lions den. The defending NBA champions always look to stick it to the Knicks by bringing their A-game (remember when they put and end to Linsanity?). They wanted to avenge their earlier 20 point loss in NY and this game decides who will have the best record in the east. Melo sat out with an injury. Camby, Amare, and Shumpert are on the injured list. The Heat just lost to the lowly Wizards and are hungry to move on and make a statement against a beaten up Knicks team. But this is a different Knicks team. The crisp passing, deadly shooting, and excellent defense of the Knicks proved too much for the Heat. Raymond Felton has his best game of the season and wowed the crowd with his array of crossovers and long range bombs. Novak killed it from downtown. Tyson Chandler led the defensive attack by shutting down Bosh. Ronnie Brewer and Kidd frustrated D-Wade. LeBron was dominant as usual but the Knicks wore out his teammates. NY sits atop the conference by blowing out the champs on their home floor (without their best player, mind you) in yet another 20 point blowout. Remember, this is a Heat team that manhandled the Brooklyn Nets in 2 meetings thus far because they wanted to send a message. Oh hell yeah. 14-4.
In closing, we have the best record in the east while playing without 3 important regulars in Amare, Shumpert, and Camby. We will have our ups and downs this year but we have proven we have a tough, gritty, smart, playoff tested squad that will make noise. Now, I leave you with words that warm the heart:
Chris Bosh: “I was telling people the Knicks were going to be good. I felt they were going to be a very good team and were going to challenge us. I was thinking about them all summer because I know they were thinking about us.”
LeBron James: “We already thought they were going to be a better team. We haven’t went into the first two games doubting them or underestimating their ability…They pretty much just kicked our ass in two games.”
Dwyane Wade: “In the Eastern Conference you would have to look up and say they’re the measuring stick right now, and they would say the same about us.”
Jason Kidd: “This is a dress rehearsal, that’s all it is. You guys (the reporters and media) do the hype and everything, but this is just a dress rehearsal for the playoffs…They’re still the champs. We haven’t done anything…It does feel good, but we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to stay hungry. We can’t fall into the trap because we really haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
NY fans enjoy your New New York Knicks. You deserve it!