Hamilton: Anthony has been great, but Smith and Stoudemire have led late playoff push

Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst

With Wednesday night’s 110-81 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Knicks have regained the edge in the crosstown rivalry.

But more importantly, they have regained the edge over the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. There is still basketball to be played, but surprisingly, the Knicks will wake up on Thursday morning as a playoff team, thanks to their leading the Hawks by win-percentage points.

J.R. SmithSince March 5, the Knicks have gone 12-3, and while those who view the glass as half-empty will point out the fact that the majority of those wins have come against lesser-than-stellar competition, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and yes, these Nets, have each been playing respectable basketball in their own right.

All four have fallen to the Knicks.

The biggest reason for optimism moving forward — and we say this in spite of terrible shellackings at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns — is simply effort.

Effort, as well as the play of both Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith.

The Knicks have been one of the league’s biggest enigmas this season. All season long, the NBA world collectively wondered why the Knicks—though not nearly as talented as the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers—were not winning more and in many of their losses, an apparent lack of effort and motivation was the culprit.

That has certainly not been the case over the past 15 games and with just seven remaining, it would be wise to judge today’s Knicks not by the results of the team they were earlier this season, but of the team they have become over the past few weeks.

As the season has progressed, Amar’e Stoudemire has gained not only confidence in operating from the low and mid-post, he has gained know-how. The most important thing that a post-player in the NBA can have is an impressive array of counter-moves. With Mason Plumlee guarding him down the stretch of the first quarter on Wednesday night, Stoudemire showed an ability to finesse his way to where he wanted to be in the low-post area simply by countering Plumlee’s planting and movements and it is something Stoudemire has developed quite well.

Amar'e StoudemireAlthough he is still prone to turnovers, the Knicks have shown a willingness to give Stoudemire opportunities in the low-post in spurts and the results have been mostly positive. Over the course of his last 14 games, Stoudemire is averaging 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in just 28.3 minutes per game. He is shooting about 57 percent from the field and has slowly but surely emerged as a much-needed offensive pace-changer for the Knicks. In his 14 starts since March 1, the Knicks are 10-4.

As for Smith, his shot-selection and decision-making are still as questionable as they each were back in November and December, but something has gotten into him recently. Perhaps his left knee is finally 100 percent after the surgical procedures he underwent last summer or maybe it is a want to keep himself off of the trading block this summer, but since March 1, Smith is averaging 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, but most importantly, he shot 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the three-point line.

His shooting in March was a far cry from back in November and December, when he converted on just 35 percent of his shots. It is also worth noting that the 40 percent clip with which he connected in March was his single-best three-point shooting month this season.

As a team, the Knicks went 11-5 in March after going 2-11 in November, 7-9 in December, 10-6 in January and 2-11 in February.

Along the way, injuries to Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler certainly adversely affected the team, as did depth-chart and rotation shuffling, but if the past 15 games has been any indication of who the Knicks truly are today, then finishing the season up on a high-note by winning four of the final six games is certainly possible—especially if the Knicks play with the same collective energy and passion that has been mostly apparent over the past few weeks.

With Chandler and Iman Shumpert playing their roles as defensive anchors who can make other contributions when opportunities avail, and with Tim Hardaway Jr. continuing to provide an offensive spark—even if somewhat inconsistently—the Knicks have the makings of a playoff team.

Obviously, at this point, the hole that has been dug is so deep that the Knicks are not in control of their own destiny. Even if they win out at this point and finish the season 39-43, they will need the Hawks to lose at least two more games from here on out.

The good news for the Knicks? That is easily imaginable. On February 1, the Hawks were 25-21 and were widely considered one of the league’s surprise teams of the first half of the season. Since then, they have gone 7-21 and have experienced a free-fall from the conference’s fourth-seed to, entering play on Thursday, being win-percentage points out of the eighth seed.

While the loss of Al Horford was devastating, the Hawks, as an organization, are clearly not invested in making the playoffs and being used as slam dunk crash test dummies for the Miami Heat in their inevitable first round sweep. Instead, the rebuilding organization would probably be much-better served by missing the playoffs altogether. In such an instance, it is quite likely that the Hawks would end up with the 10th selection in the 2014 NBA draft and an impact player could be had.

As is well chronicled, the Denver Nuggets own the Knicks’ 2014 pick, so there is no such incentive in New York. And with the impending free agency of Carmelo Anthony, the last thing the franchise would want is for the first time that Anthony misses the playoffs to be the summer when he will probably have his only opportunity to seek greener pastures while he is still in his prime.

With an improbable stretch and only six games remaining, the Knicks have a serious shot at making the playoffs. Anthony is magnificent, but he cannot drag the Knicks there on his own.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, with Stoudemire and Smith both playing at a high-level, he may not have to.


Moke Hamilton is the NBA Analyst for SNY.tv and, along with Lead Writer Harris Decker, hosts the Knicks Blog Podcast each and every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton




70 comments
CiceAsNice
CiceAsNice

"The Knicks have been one of the league’s biggest enigmas this season. All season long, the NBA world collectively wondered why the Knicks—though not nearly as talented as the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers—were not winning more and in many of their losses, an apparent lack of effort and motivation was the culprit."


Typical talking point, line up the Knicks team next to the Pacers squad and tell me how this holds true?  Of course we need the good JR, Shump and Felton and a healthy Stat, but this is not a true statement!  Miami with a healthy Lebron, Wade and Bosh is better then anyone, but I emphasize...'healthy'!

po_diddley
po_diddley

"I'm right."


"No, I'm going to be right.  You wait and see"


"You're a troll."


"You're a hater."


BUNCH OF CACKLING HENS AROUND HERE.  


Christ, the Knicks have climbed back into the playoffs and it's still a dick measuring contest at the ol TKB.  

RFortune
RFortune

The fact of the matter is if we can't beat or compete with the rest of these teams that we're facing there is no reason we should be in the playoffs

jax13
jax13

Cleveland is starting to creep up too but we need em to beat hawks tomm.......

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

Friday will be telling.

Hawks at home versus Cleveland

Wizards at NYK

Knicks_Fanatic
Knicks_Fanatic

Hollinger playoff odd are now up to 28.3%. We are on the rise.

Ray Jorge
Ray Jorge

Being a knick fan is emotionally draining but is it me but a point guard tandem of Felton Priggs & Murry is atrocious! Every one else has to play at such a high level it's unsustainable but for now the rollercoaster ride is going upwards & the good thing is no matter what we have PHIL to break our fall! In the meantime.....LETS GO KNICKS!!!

Buck50
Buck50

Lets say we do play Miami and lets just say we win,who do we face next after that?

Vaughn Allen
Vaughn Allen

Who would you rather face in Round 1 Miami or Indiana...Why?


Indiana for Me.. still want Blood from last years collapse

CiceAsNice
CiceAsNice

@Biggie Stephen A is good for bandwagon jumping.  His man crush on the Pacers is starting to disappear!

darealeric
darealeric

And possibly NOT make the playoffs. Idiot...

Vaughn Allen
Vaughn Allen

@Muhammed A. Gretzky  No matter how many times I read your post..I cant help but think how drugs are both good and bad for human consumption. 


#imOn1

darealeric
darealeric

Such delusions. One idiot here actually said something like "if we beat Miami, who do we play after that?"

charlie duck sauce
charlie duck sauce

@Vaughn Allen @Muhammed A. GretzkyStop consuming the bad ones then.

darealeric
darealeric

Nah, lil Biggie already got his playoff tickets. He drew them with crayons.

Vaughn Allen
Vaughn Allen

@Biggie @Vaughn Allen  trust me' the powers that be will not all the Knicks to miss this years dance$$$. NBA stands to make fortune off this team that is starting to turn the corner.

solar_lion
solar_lion

@Biggie @Kiyan CarterExactly. I never get too high or too low with the Knicks. I just will never root for them to lose or for another team to to beat them.

MeloStat301
MeloStat301

@darealeric No, fact is you idiots predicted before last season to be terrible like this year and they went on to 54 wins and a 2nd seed..then ur narrative was "it only matters what they do in the playoffs"..so, to that I tell you..."this season doesn't matter who cares?  Only matters what the knicks do when we get in the playoffs"  :o)

HypoCrit_calNYKfans
HypoCrit_calNYKfans

@Biggie  


Nah, You don't need to go there. That Cat look kind of weak, kind of effeminate looking. But I do agree that he needs to be put in his place!

darealeric
darealeric

Actually no. The fact that this season has been a disaster that a few of us "haters" predicted despite you idiots' claims we would be a top 3 seed, is what makes YOU ALL look stupid.

HypoCrit_calNYKfans
HypoCrit_calNYKfans

@Biggie

Are you serious, did he ask that? Any fan like him that not only "root" against there own team but also "bet" against there own team is a flat out disgrace! I have no respect for his ilk. NONE! I only wish I could go against him on the court. I would put a "whupping" and every part of his body! 

darealeric
darealeric

Oh my bad dumbass, lets all rejoice with you dummies at being an 8th seed TODAY.

darealeric
darealeric

Damn bruh, you up this early? When you woke up, was Melo still in bed next to you? Or did he leave already?

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Biggie  Well, if I supposedly saw our Knicks running a triangle offense lately and ranted to others about it,  I'm told I could quality!  How bout u?

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Biggie You also imagined we are playing the triangle now!  

Those who wear large Helmets should just imagine what it would be like to just take it off! 

That's your best bet to know about me! lol

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Biggie Yep you have for sure and lying and being wrong about as much as one can on a yearly basis!

 You're the Dick Cheney of TKB!

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Vaughn Allen Hey man. stop the Mets bashing!  We're just trying to get our loss quota out early.

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Vaughn Allen

ATL has 8 games left.   I think they lose 3 for sure (Indy,Mia and Brk).  The others are a toss up! lol  

I still think the Cavs are the team to worry about especially if they beat the Hawks tomorrow. 

cle
Ind@away
Det
Bos
Brk@away
Mia
Cha
Mil@away 

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@thatsagoodpoint I hope so.  I want them to beat the Cavs so we can get them out of the playoff picture more. 

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Vaughn Allen

Exactly. But the Cavs have a much easier last 6 games than we do and they even play  less away game than we do.   

I really want to the Hawks to beat the Cavs because no way ATL stays in the 8th place. 

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@thatsagoodpoint How tough is it when you play bad teams that really just wants to go home vs we having to play all better teams and worry about 2 other teams?

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@thatsagoodpoint They are behind but the Cavs have a very easy schedule coming up where we play all good teams or least teams in a better standing than us.  

I hope we make and it would be nice to earn our way in but to not see that the Cavs have a much easier schedule would be like your putting your helmet in the sand like Biggie. lol

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@Biggie Come on man, as long as we have our triangle going, I know we can do this! lol

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@thatsagoodpoint LOL  

Every team we play is above .500 and ahead of us. 

The Cavs play only 1 team above .500 and in the playoff picture.

YIKEs!

xmenreturn
xmenreturn

@thatsagoodpoint  

This is remaining schedule of the CAVS and us.Do you see a problem? lol

CAVS:

ATL@Away
CHA
DET
MIL@Away
BOS
BRK


NYKS:


WAS
MIA@Away
TOR@AWAy
CHI
BRK@AWay
TOR