Strong play from Anthony, Porzingis and Rose provide Knicks edge

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Like he has many times before, Carmelo Anthony hit the game-winning shot in the dying seconds of an overtime shootout with the Charlotte Bobcats. With a veteran’s confidence, Anthony received a pass and immediately broke into a post-up against Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. No. 7 spun around and arched a shot above Kidd-Gilchrist’s outstretched arms that found the net with a little over a second left on the clock—he subsequently turned to the crowd and let out a massive roar. The former Syracuse Orangeman and the New York Knicks are starting to round into form.

With only five players returning from last season, the team from Manhattan struggled early in the season to find cohesiveness on both ends of the court. Almost a quarter of the way through the season, team President Phil Jackson’s vision of a revamped roster is finally coming to fruition. Player Derrick Rose recently had a 30-point game, showing flashes of his once-dominant play—a reminiscence of his game before suffering numerous knee injuries.

Another off-season acquisition, Courtney Lee, is proving to be a reliable deep shooter. Likewise, Joakim Noah is back to the 2013 version of himself, where he finished fourth in MVP voting. As for the team’s familiar faces, Melo’s efficiency on offense is near a career high and Kristaps Porzingis is turning into a superstar right before his fans’ eyes.

First year head coach Jeff Hornacek has managed to construct an offense where Melo can get his isolation looks while point guard Brandon Jennings and Rose can get the bulk of the team’s opportunities in transition.

A lot has been said about the Knick’s traditional triangle-offense and how it is not efficient for modern player skillsets, but Hornacek has modified it to better suit his team’s strengths.

For example, out of all the forwards and centers in the NBA, only three have taken more shots from deep than Anthony and Kristaps, who have both shot 96 as of Nov. 29.

While their percentage from three-point range may not be as high as others, the fact that Hornacek is incorporating that into the game plan not only proves that he feels this is a winning strategy, but is also validation that Jackson is finally willing to update the methods that he has lived by for so long.

Since Stephon Marbury’s time patrolling the Garden floor, the Knicks have not had a point guard that can duke it out with the best in the league for 48 minutes. At least for this season, the team has addressed that gap in the re-emerging Rose.

When Russell Westbrook and company came to New York, it brought the best out of the former Chicago Bull as he dropped 30 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists. On defense, Rose was not able to stop Westbrook from recording yet another triple double, but there are few in the league who can. On the contrary, Rose has been able to penetrate the defense at will and continues to finish at the rim with ease.

If Rose stays healthy and plays relatively well throughout the remainder of the season, the Knicks front office will be faced with a tough decision come July.

The dilemma on their hands: do they extend Rose’s contract and keep their current core intact, or go after a different point guard such as Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry or Jrue Holiday?

Around this time five years earlier, Paul reportedly wanted to be traded to New York but was instead dealt to the Clippers, where he currently resides. Los Angeles is off to a great start this season and is one of the few teams in the league that is positioning itself for a championship run in the spring, although Paul remains interested in teaming up with Melo. If the Clippers fail to make a deep playoff run again this year, the chances of Paul landing in the Big Apple are high.

The team will be put to the test throughout the month with marquee matchups against the Cavaliers, Lakers and Warriors. If the new-look offense can hold against the premier defenses of these tough opponents, it will be to the credit of Hornacek and his reconstructive efforts.

More importantly, the team must to put together a strong outing in December overall to regain ground after the tough start to the season. The Knicks are currently mid-pack, working to crawl over .500. If Anthony, Porzingis, and Rose are able to share the ball and play smart basketball, they are well-placed to make a run for the top.

Luckily, the Eastern Conference remains tight and there is still a full season ahead. Still, the conference powerhouses, including the Cavaliers and the raptors, are known to put together wins in bulk; the Knicks must enter every game eager to remain competitive in a conference that can slip out of their reach very quickly.

In the meantime, ticket prices are rising, blue and orange jerseys are being dusted off and fans are starting to believe this team can make the playoffs. New York Knicks basketball is exciting again.

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