The Knicks won the first quarter, 28-24, and that's a positive sign. In their current four-game winning streak, they had the lead after the opening period each time. The 'Bockers were led by J.R. Smith (21 points on 8-for-14 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line), Carmelo Anthony (11 points) and Kenyon Martin (5 points). Defensively, the Knicks turned seven steals into 11 fast-break points against the Boston Celtics.
Here are four main observations at the half as the Knicks lead 58-44:
1. Smith's quick thinking and aggressiveness. Get it and go -- that's been the sixth man's mindset lately, not a lot of over-dribbling around the perimeter, but strong and crafty dribbling right to the basket. With Amar'e Stoudemire out, the Knicks have needed another player to draw fouls, and Smith has been that guy lately. Besides him, Anthony has been the team's only other consistent threat getting to the line.
Smith has relentlessly attacked the basket. He followed his own shot twice, along with a missed layup by Anthony, and scored each time in the first half.
2. Martin's window cleaning. Most of the time, if a team trailed in the assist margin 7-to-1, which was the case for the Knicks in the first quarter, that team would be down. But the Knicks had scoring machine Anthony and a very active Martin, who had three offensive rebounds in the opening period. In addition, Melo and Smith accounted for one each. That extra work helped the Knicks stay in front of the Celtics early on.
3. Pablo Prigioni, the gnat. After the Raptors game on Saturday, Raymond Felton referenced the Argentine as an annoying bug for his ball-hawking defense. In almost every game, it seems like Prigioni has a sneaky steal off an opponent's inbound pass, and he had one again tonight. He intercepted a pass for Avery Bradley and he took it in himself for a fast-break layup. In addition to his one steal, he had four assists and no turnovers.
4. Novakaine! Even though the Knicks shot 4-for-12 from 3-point range, Steve Novak was 2-for-4. One 3-pointer came off a smart head fake at the top of the key. That's the kind of quick decision-making the Knicks need from him in the flow of the offense. They can't have him hesitating and lacking confidence when looking to find his shot.
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