HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Carmelo Anthony‘s MVP campaign took a hit on Wednesday when the New York Knicks proved for the third time this season that they can win without him. At the same time, Mike Woodson‘s Coach of the Year campaign got a boost.
On Wednesday, the Knicks weren’t just without Anthony, who suffered a hyperextended left knee in Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. They were also without Raymond Felton, who broke his pinky in L.A. and could be out 4-6 weeks. Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and Rasheed Wallace also continued to sit.
J.R. Smith was the hero against the Suns, while Jason Kidd (23 points, six rebounds and eight assists) was the leader he’s been all year. But the Knicks were in the game because of defense, which is the most encouraging sign for Woodson’s team.
After a strong start defensively, the Knicks allowed 106.4 points per 100 possessions over a 15-game stretch between Nov. 21 and Dec. 17, when they got scorched by the Rockets for the second time. Though they couldn’t stop the Bulls last Friday or the Lakers on Christmas, their defense has been strong in their last three wins (over Brooklyn, Minnesota and Phoenix).
Felton hasn’t exactly been consistent this season, but overall, the Knicks’ offense has been better with him on the floor. So, without their point guard, the Knicks may have to get more defensive over the next few weeks if they want to maintain their spot behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings. The good news is that they’ve been better defensively with Felton on the bench.
Of course, Stoudemire’s eventual return throws a big wrinkle into anything the Knicks do with or without Felton. It has already been written here that Woodson’s Coach of the Year campaign will hinge on how the Knicks do once Stoudemire is back.
Still, another win without Anthony (who may or may not play Friday in Sacramento) is another notch on Woodson’s belt. And defensively, it was another step forward for the Knicks.