The New York Knicks might be in less trouble than we thought. In their first game since Tyson Chandler was injured — he’ll be out 4-6 more weeks with a right leg fracture — the Knicks beat the Bobcats 101-91. The Knicks got out to a 28-22 lead after one quarter, which set the tone for the game. More importantly, Andrea Bargnani had his best game as a Knick.
Bargnani scored 25 points on 11-25 shooting. The former #1 overall pick was aggressive on both ends of the floor. Bargnani had 8 rebounds (he was averaging 3) and 5 blocks. Bargnani started at center in place of Chandler, so he needed to be more active defensively. It paid off, as the Knicks got revenge for the loss the Bobcats handed the Knicks at the Garden on Tuesday. The win also broke a three game losing streak.
The Knicks are now 2-3, but they will have to survive the next few weeks without Chandler. The Knicks played well against the Bobcats, but the Bobcats are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA. The Knicks have the talent to beat mediocre teams, but they will be tested by better teams next week.
The tough schedule starts Sunday when the Knicks play the San Antonio Spurs in a matinee at Madison Square Garden. The Spurs will have a clear size advantage over the Knicks with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter on their front line. The Knicks’ small lineup will be tested on the boards. With A’mare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin expected to sit, Bargnani will see extended minutes. It will be important that Bargnani maintains his aggressiveness against the stiffer competition.
The Knicks will also face the Houston Rockets on Thursday. The Rockets have a formidable front line in Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. After the next week, we will be able to properly assess how the Knicks’ small lineup competes against top teams in the NBA.
The Knicks will have to rely on their offensive advantages to stay in games. Without Chandler on the floor, Bargnani has more room to operate. The spacing combined with a starting lineup that includes Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni to help ball movement, makes the Knicks’ offense dangerous. Carmelo Anthony also causes a mismatch for opposing teams as the power forward. Anthony bounced back after a few tough games to score 28 points on 12-22 shooting in Charlotte. Anthony added 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
The Knicks’ bench will get a boost when last year’s Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith makes his debut on Sunday. Smith averaged 18.1 points per game last year. He will be a welcome addition to a second unit that lacks a true scorer.
In Charlotte the Knicks made their shots — 46.7% from the field and 12 threes for 46.2% — they will have to continue to shoot the ball well to stay in games. Their defensive intensity will have to remain at a high level without their best defender in Tyson Chandler.
For the first time this season, Andrea Bargnani looked like the guy the Knicks had hoped they traded for in the offseason. If he can continue to be successful on both ends of the floor the Knicks will be in good position to make a run when Chandler returns.
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