With no Amare Stoudemire (for a while) and no Jeremy Lin (for a night), there were the two things we said the Knicks needed if they were going to make the playoffs (and, in a dream scenario, make a run to the top of the Atlantic division).
First, a whole lot of Carmelo Anthony on offense. Second, really good team defense.
The Knicks got both of those things Wednesday night, and with them a blueprint of what they need to do from here on out. They also got an easy 108-86 win over the Magic. It certainly helped that Orlando pretty much rolled up into the fetal position and let the Knicks take the win, but still the blueprint is still there.
Anthony had 25 points and six assists, but it was how he got them that was key. With no Lin the Knicks largely went away from the pick-and-roll — they only had 9 shots by the ball-handler or roll man in that set. Instead they used Anthony more in the post and good ball movement (34 shots came on spot ups, 20 in isolations). Anthony in the post drew fouls, hit some turnaround jumpers and made smart kickouts. He made the offense go.
Defensively, the Knicks have the personnel to follow the book on the Magic — single cover Dwight Howard and stay home on the shooters. With Tyson Chandler on him Howard had just 12 points on 7 shots. Orlando’s game plan is to make you double inside and them beat you with deep shots, but the Knicks could stay home on the shooters and the Magic never got in a rhythm.
The Knicks got some other good play as well — Iman Shumpert had 25 points and played good defense.
It’s not always going to be that easy for the Knicks because most teams won’t roll over like that (it’s games like this that make you think the Magic will not impress in the plaoff. But the blueprint is there. And the Knicks are now 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks and solidly in the playoffs — and just 2.5 games out of the division lead.