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.
Philadelphia had its chance. It got the ball with 27.5 seconds left in a tie game in Atlanta, a chance for Jimmy Butler to ice another game and… nothing. The Sixers had a shot clock violation after a scrambled play (watch the video above).
That left 3.5 seconds for Trae Young, and that’s all the time he needed.
Young’s floater has improved over the course of the season, and he was quick enough to get in a position where Butler could not block his shot. And he drained it.
The combination of a Sixers team that looked flat coming off their win over the Celtics, combined with Young’s energy was too much. Atlanta has played better since the All-Star break and teams sleep on them at their own peril.
Boban Marjanovic was 0-of-6 from three in his career before Saturday night. Then this happened.
Boban is just fun. Basketball should be fun.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with his free agency this summer, but you can bet the fans in Philly want him to stick around.
Lonzo Ball has played in just 99 games through his first two NBA seasons, 60 percent of the possible games. His rookie season, it was shoulder and knee issues that sidelined him for 30 games.
This past season, he went down on Jan. 19 with a sprained ankle against the Rockets, a severe one that also had a bone bruise, which slowed the healing. Ball has been shut down for the season because of it.
The Lakers are concerned that his Big Baller Brand shoes may have contributed to the ankle issues, something Ball confirmed the Lakers talked to him about in an ESPN story by Ramona Shelburne and Paula Lavigne.
[The January injury] marked his third separate ankle injury, which left the Lakers searching for what could be the root issue of his troubles — including asking about his Big Baller Brand shoes.
“Yeah, they talked to me,” Lonzo Ball told ESPN two weeks ago. “They asked me about it, and I told ’em, ‘I feel comfortable. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t play in ’em. If I didn’t play in [his signature BBB shoes], I’d play in Kobe [Bryant’s signature Nike shoe]. I work out in [LeBron James’ signature Nike shoe], but that’s because they’re heavier.”
Lonzo also said he told the Lakers he was open to making adjustments — “just minor things,” he said — to his Big Baller Brand shoes if needed.
There are trainers around the league who believe a lot of foot and ankle issues in the NBA are about poorly designed or ill-fitting shoes (that can include major, trusted brands, but the player wears something that does not fit his needs).
Whether the ZO2 is part of the problem or not is impossible to say from the outside.
However, Ball recently severed some ties with the Big Baller Brand over the business manager’s handling of his money. Ball also deleted pictures of himself wearing Big Baller Brand gear from his Instagram. What does that mean? We’re not going to speculate here, but take your own best guess.
Malcolm Brogdon is out for the remainder of the regular season, likely the first round of the playoffs, and maybe longer with a plantar fascia tear. Nikola Mirotic is out likely through the end of the regular season (and maybe a little longer) with a thumb fracture. The injury bug that the Bucks avoided much of the season is catching up with them.
And Pau Gasol can now be added to the list, according to ESPN’s Malika Andrews.
Gasol is going to play a limited role for Milwaukee, but his depth along the front line would have been helpful as the Bucks try to rest guys and get right for the postseason.
If these injuries — particularly Brogdon, who is an important glue piece for them — lingers into the second round of the playoffs for Milwaukee, it could mean an earlier end to the season than they hoped.