Not much surprise after the first half, with the 10-4 Knicks taking on the worst team in the NBA, the 1-12 Wizards. Carmelo Anthony's two-point shot at the buzzer put them up 11. Here are four observations at halftime:
1. Anthony's hot start -- with passing. Melo finished the first quarter not with 10 points -- his average is a league-best 10.4 average -- but with three assists (above his game average). On the first two possessions, the Knicks did what they do best -- D'ed up -- and forced a turnover trapping Wizards point guard A.J. Price. Then on the trip back, Anthony found Ronnie Brewer on a backcourt cut. Later in the period, after Melo got swarmed down low with nowhere to go, he flung a pass to J.R. Smith on the left wing, and then he found Steve Novak in the baseline corner for the 3.
Anthony was facilitating well, and the Knicks really couldn't miss from downtown after starting off 0-for-5. They made their next four, led by Smith (two), Novak (one) and Pablo Prigioni (two). For the half, the Knicks shot 51.2 percent from the field.
2. J.R. comes to play. Novak recently called him one of the best passers in the league. Early in the first half, he had four assists. Not only that, he had 10 points in six minutes. On one play, Smith received the outlet pass and took it the length of the floor for the fastbreak layup. While the Wizards entered tonight as the league's best bench scoring team (45.2 points per game), Smith led the Knicks' second unit to the better output. The Knicks had 25 points, compared to the Wizards' 21.
3. Brewer's shooting provides a huge boost. Remember the days when Landry Fields would clank 3-pointer after 3-pointer in the baseline corner? Well, not only has Brewer replaced Fields' defense in a major way, he's making those corner 3s. Entering tonight, he was shooting 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. In the first half, he was 2-for-3.
4. Chris Copeland checks in early. Usually the rookie has been one of the last players to board. But on Friday night, Mike Woodson called his number at the start of the second quarter, replacing Anthony. Marcus Camby remained benched. But Copeland was basically a non-factor, as he finished the half with two personal fouls and one turnover.
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