While the Nets are falling apart across the river in Brooklyn, everything seems to be coming together for the Knicks.
They finally are starting to look comfortable in the triangle, an offense that once seemed to be a cause of great confusion. Fresh off an impressive road trip in which they were one missed three-pointer away from going 3-0, the Knicks continued to build momentum Sunday night, rolling over the Milwaukee Bucks, 100-88, at Madison Square Garden.
It was the Knicks’ fourth win in their last five games and began an important stretch of winnable games, one that very well could decide whether they are headed for the playoffs.
Eleven of the Knicks’ next 16 games are at home, and coach Derek Fisher knows what kind of opportunity that presents. He detailed his plans for building on it.
“Keep pushing them. Keep expecting more, demanding more,” he said. “Just stay focused on our process. We can’t become somebody that we aren’t before we get there.”’
Yet a lot of fans at the game seemed to think they were watching something important in the making, especially during the 14-4 run at the end of the second quarter that allowed the Knicks to take control of the game.
Point guard Jose Calderon, who missed a three-pointer at the buzzer against the Spurs in the Knicks’ 100-99 loss Friday night in San Antonio, made some big contributions during the run. After his steal led to a layup by Carmelo Anthony, he hit a three-pointer that gave the Knicks a 48-39 lead with 2:12 left in the half.
Anthony fell just short of a triple-double, Kristaps Porzingis was a blocking and rebounding machine and Derrick Williams got in on the action with a ferocious dunk that brought the fans to their feet and made the score 50-39.
All told, five Knicks scored in double figures. Anthony had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Porzingis added 15 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots. He also made the most impressive basket of the game, hitting a three-pointer from a good five feet beyond the arc to make the score 97-81.
Robin Lopez and Lance Thomas had 13 points each and Arron Afflalo added 11 for the Knicks, who built a 22-point lead in the third quarter.
Greg Monroe had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Khris Middleton added 20 points for the Bucks.
Fisher said it’s hard to overstate Anthony’s contributions. “I didn’t realize statistically how close he was to [a triple-double],’’ he said. “He opened up things for a lot of people.”
Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty, who is acting as head coach while Jason Kidd recovers from hip surgery, said he has been impressed with Anthony’s leadership on the floor.
“He impacts the game in a lot of ways,” Prunty said. “I think the first thing that people are going to think about is the stat sheet and what was his scoring and his shooting. He’s also a guy that causes a lot of problems . . . People say he’s not that good of a passer, but that’s not an accurate statement.”
Fisher said he does see a new comfort level from his team.
“It’s more time playing together,” he said, “and moving through the ups and downs of the season. I think the camaraderie has been there for some time . . . I think the guys are learning through the fire and the duress that to trust each other as a group is less frustrating than going the other way.”