What a difference a year makes, or at least a new year.
The New York Knicks looked nothing like the 9-21 team that ended 2013 on a 3 game losing streak, as they beat the San Antonio Spurs on the road 105-101 Thursday night. The Knicks won despite a monster night from Marco Belinelli who scored 32 points on 12-16 shooting (6-9 from three).
Carmelo Anthony made his return from an ankle injury and did not disappoint scoring 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Anthony’s return was much needed but the star of the game was Iman Shumpert.
Shumpert came in averaging 6 points a game. He had lacked confidence for much of the year, but that was not the case Thursday in The Alamo. Shumpert erupted for 27 points (6-8 from three). He also had 6 rebounds and 3 steals as he kept Tony Parker (12 points) in check. The Knicks have been looking for someone to provide consistent scoring along side Anthony and Shumpert finally provided it.
It was a total team effort by the Knicks. Toure Murry helped spark a run after the Knicks fell behind in the second quarter. Murry and Shumpert’s defense kept the Knicks in the game at that point. Amar’e Stoudemire also chipped in 11 points off the bench.
J.R. Smith only scored 4 points but he was involved in two of the biggest plays of the game. Tied at 98, Beno Udrih fumbled the ball and it was batted into the backcourt. Smith retrieved the ball and drew three defenders, which allowed him to find Shumpert for the go ahead 3 with 39 seconds left.
After Belinelli tied it with a three, the Knicks got a tip in from Iman Shumpert to regain the lead. Smith rebounded the ball on the Spurs final two possessions — in between two Anthony free throws — as the Knicks held off the Spurs.
The Knicks did things well that have been hurting them this season.
They got significant offensive production from players not named Carmelo Anthony, and they were able to get key defensive stops during the game to sustain runs. The spacing and ball movement was also a positive sign.
The three days of practice between their final game of 2013 and their game on Thursday certainly appears to have helped the Knicks. The Knicks will have to try and sustain their play during the rest of their three game Texas road trip.
Have the Knicks turned over a new leaf in 2014? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, 2014 is off to an entirely better start than the first 28 games the Knicks played in 2013.