Streak keeps Knicks' hopes alive ... for now

BOSTON, MA --- For the first time in a long time, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks had plenty to smile about after a 116-92 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

“We are doing good right now and we want to keep it going,” Anthony said.

The Knicks are now riding a five-game win streak, matching their season high. Anthony’s game-high 34 points tied the mark for most points scored by a Celtics opponent this season, as the top scorer in the East captained a Knicks’ offense that was firing on all cylinders in Beantown.

“We got stops and we spread the court so well,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of his team’s balanced effort against Boston. The Knicks opened up a 23-7 edge in the game’s opening minutes and led by double-digits for nearly the entire contest.

Said Woodson: “We are a tough team to beat and we’ve been shooting these last five games; we’ve been shooting the hell out of the ball and our defense has been on par as well, so it’s a good combination to have. Again we just got to continue to grow, take it one day at a time and see what happens.”

The numbers back up Woodson’s analysis of his team’s performance as the Knicks have dealt their opponents double-digit defeats in all of their past five contests. During the streak, the Knicks are averaging an eye-opening 114.4 points a game and beating teams by an average of 15.5 points.

Despite the positives, Anthony and his teammates weren’t patting themselves on the back after an easy blowout over the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics. This group understands they are finally doing what they had been striving to do all season long: take care of business against inferior opponents.

“Throughout the season, you have your ups and downs,” Anthony said. “We had more downs than ups this season. Right now, we are playing great basketball from all angles. On the defensive end, guys are trusting one another, guys are helping each other out. Offensively, everything is synced with one another so we are taking advantage of that.”

That kind of balanced play has created a different vibe in the Knicks’ locker room right now, as the players realize the team is playing with a new sense of confidence over the past week.

“Our mindset is a lot different than it was before [the streak],” Anthony explained. “When you're losing games, you are trying to reach, trying to search to figure out what’s going on, what’s happening. Nobody really knows exactly the reason we were losing games. It seems like now guys are just playing ball and it seemed like it took that game in Minnesota to get us back playing the way we know how to.”

Contributions are coming from a variety of places during the Knicks’ hot streak, as the winning continued Wednesday despite the absences of Tyson Chandler (who sat out the game for personal reasons) and Amar’e Stoudemire (recovery).

In their place, Tim Hardaway Jr. stepped up with another stellar performance, posting 22 points off the bench. Seldom-used Cole Aldrich also made the first start of his career at center in place of Chandler and delivered a career-high 12 points and 10 rebounds over 25 active minutes.

Despite his breakout performance, Aldrich’s only focus after the game was on the team’s overall play of late.

“It’s not about me, it’s not about what we did today,” Aldrich said. “It’s about the whole team and what we are doing lately, and we are coming out here and playing really good basketball.”

The win pulled New York within three games of the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 16 games remaining on the schedule.

With five of New York’s next six games coming against non-playoff teams, the time is now for the Knicks to make up more ground in the playoff race, before a tough April schedule hits.

“Regardless of who we play we’re just taking it one game at a time,” Anthony said. “These are teams that we’ve got to play, it’s on the schedule, so we don’t control that. The only thing we can control is whether we win or not.”

After a disastrous start to the season, the Knicks may not have enough time to squeak into the playoff picture, but they know they are at least giving themselves a chance in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

“We’ve dug a hole for ourselves throughout this season, but right now, this is the time to really make this push,” Anthony said.

The push continues at home Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.