WHAT IT MEANS: On a cloudy evening in New York, the Knicks found out that their starting point guard, Jeremy Lin, would potentially miss the rest of the season with a small chronic meniscal tear in his left knee.
But that didn't get the Knicks too down Saturday night. They built a 25-17 first-quarter lead and then energized the Garden crowd with some big plays down the stretch, en route to a 91-75 victory (a season-best for points allowed).
The Knicks (27-26) surpassed .500 for the second time in a week to remain the eighth playoff seed in the East.
TURNING POINT: J.R. Smith in the fourth quarter. The Knicks and Cavaliers kept it close for most of the game until the Knicks' best all-around bench weapon lit up the Garden for 12 points in the final period, including two 3-pointers. He finished with a game-high 20 points.
THE GOOD: 1. Carmelo Anthony's hot start. Entering Saturday, Melo was coming off of two impact first quarters against the Magic and Hawks, and tonight he kept it going. He scored eight points in the opening period, en route to 19 points. While Melo had a fairly quiet game, his accuracy was on (7-for-14 from the field), which he's been improving lately.
2. Tyson Chandler regains his form. Chandler was clearly not himself in Atlanta, dealing with a slight groin injury. He seemed to be lost in the offense, only finishing with four points. But tonight, he and the team made it more of a concerted effort to find him, especially dropping to the basket off screens. Chandler finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. With Amare Stoudemire out for about another four weeks, Chandler's role as a flasher is important because not only does he have great hands and can finish, but his ability to put pressure on the defense in the middle of the paint will continue to create open looks for shooters.
3. Iman Shumpert's 3-point shooting. The rookie is lucky to have one of the greatest NBA shooters ever, Allan Houston, in his corner. Shumpert has been working with the former Knick and assistant general manager, and it's been paying off. In his past four games, including tonight, Shumpert is 12-for-26 from downtown (46.2 percent). He also had another stellar defensive effort, finishing with a game-high five steals.
BOLD PLAY OF THE GAME: Midway through the fourth quarter, Smith stole the ball from Cavaliers backup point guard Lester Hudson, took it down the court, and then went behind his back on Anthony Parker to finish with the left-hand layup.
THE BAD: 1. Turnovers still too high. This has been arguably the biggest issue plaguing the Knicks all season, besides injuries. Entering Saturday, the Knicks were averaging a league-high 16.6 turnovers per game. Under Mike Woodson, it hasn't been any different (16.7), and tonight they finished with 17. What's scary is that the Knicks are mistiming basic chest and bounce passes, and occasionally fumbling the ball. They're not at the bottom of the league for complex reasons. Simple feeds need to be fixed, which Woodson has talked about recently.
2. Baron Davis' slower step. He's been playing through a slight hamstring injury, and you can tell. While his 6-3, 215-pound size enables him to keep his defender at bay, he's lacking an explosive first step and consecutive ones to get to the basket. With Lin out for possibly the season, he's been given the responsibility of what he came to New York for: starting at point guard. But now, his minutes will have to be limited so he doesn't put extra wear and tear on his aching body.
3. No blowout? Entering Saturday, the Knicks had seven 20-point wins this season -- tied for fourth-most in the league, and three of those wins have come under Woodson. So with no Kyrie Irving (sprained right shoulder), Anderson Varejao (broken right wrist) and Daniel Gibson (torn tendon in left foot and ankle), why didn't the Knicks put away the Cavaliers, losers of nine of their last 10 games, easily tonight?
WHAT'S NEXT: The start of the final month of the regular season. The Knicks visit Indiana Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET, where the Knicks won the last time they were there on St. Patrick's Day, 102-88. Anthony was a big reason for that. He limited Pacers' best player, Danny Granger, to only 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
The Pacers are on a roll since losing to the Knicks, winning five of their last seven games, including three impressive ones against the Clippers, Bucks and Heat. An emphasis for the Knicks' defense needs to be the Pacers' emerging bench, as they've been averaging 36.3 points per game during that stretch -- seventh-best in the league.
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