The 38 first-quarter points the Knicks scored were their second-highest to start a game this season. Fueling their 18-point lead after the opening period were J.R. Smith (23 points), Carmelo Anthony (17) and former Bobcat Raymond Felton (10).
The Knicks shot 62.5 percent from the field and 75 percent (9-for-12) from 3-point range, and held the lowly Bobcats to 42.9 percent from the field.
Here are four main observations at the half:
1. Iman Shumpert's sizzling start once again. On Wednesday night in a win over the Grizzlies, he had 13 points in the first quarter without missing. Tonight in the opening period, he was 2-for-2 each from the field, 3-point range and foul line, finishing with eight points, three assists and two steals. He continues to light it up from downtown in the month of March. Entering tonight, his accuracy was a team-high 46.8 percent (22-for-47).
In addition, Shumpert has taken a page out of Smith's recent attacking game, creating three plays off the dribble in the first quarter. On back-to-back possessions, he quickly penetrated the middle of the lane and dished to Felton once and then Anthony for 3-pointers.
Later, Shump drove down the baseline, pump faked, drew the foul and made both free throws. Defensively, he's been very active lately with his hands and predicting passes two steps ahead. From there, he's been pushing the ball well and making plays within the faster pace of the Knicks' recent offense.
2. Smith, the scoring machine. The sixth man is going for his third straight game with 30 or more points. He's never done that in his career. Smith has been scoring in every which way tonight -- off the dribble in half-court sets, as a one-man fast break and from long range. His 23 points have come with only two misses (9-for-11 from the field).
3. Melo's turnaround jumper. How do you know the Knicks' star is healthy? Because of one trademark low-post move he's been executing more and more lately. He's backing down his opponent well, spinning quickly and getting great lift and fade with his turnaround jumper. He connected on a couple of those tonight, including one that led to an and-one.
4. What the ...? With seconds remaining at the end of the first quarter, Jason Kidd threw up a left-handed hook shot from the top of the key that nearly went in. Whoa! That should be part of the highlight reel later tonight in a likely win.
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