Last night, the New York Knicks faced off against the best team in the Eastern Conference - The Indiana Pacers. Already there was pressure to win as they were 4.5 games out of the 8th spot in the East, but with Phil Jackson in the building, there was extra pressure.
Before the game, Phil Jackson even met with the team and gave a brief interview. Carmelo described the meeting as "short and sweet." Still, the meeting had to given extra motivation and nerves to the Knicks last night.
From the start of the game, I saw the Knicks playing harder than I have seen them play in a while. Tyson Chandler grabbed 5 offensive rebounds (8 total) in the first half, and was on the ground three times, while fighting for rebounds. Carmelo was not only scoring, but also playing great defense. On the first Indiana Pacers possession, Carmelo drove Paul George four feet behind the three point line and did not let him go any where. Paul George struggled in the first half against Melo, as he was 1-8 against Melo. At the end of the game, George had 4-17 from the field and only 17 points. Carmelo did not only play great defense, but he continued his great offense. Carmelo scored 34 points, and was very efficient as he shot 12-23 from the field.
Amare was also looking energized as he was battling in the post. He ended the first half with 14 points, and diving on the floor and contesting shots led him to have 3 fouls. Amare was constantly asking for the ball, and was playing very well. At the end of the game, Amare had 21 points.
The role players were also showing some energy. Cole Aldrich tried to make some noise, as he tried to dunk on Ian Mahinmi twice....failed both times, but still like to see energy out of the young guys.
Tim Hardaway Jr and Iman Shumpert were working hard to prove their worth. Hardaway Jr had 4 rebounds in the first quarter and Shumpert had 2, and at the end of the game, they had a combined 8 rebounds. Unfortunately, they were 1-12 from the field (0-7 in the first quarter) and their nerves were showing. However, I'll take energy with some nerves over no energy and not even caring.
Throughout the first half, I saw a lot of energy as the Knicks held Indiana to a 41% FG% and 10 turnovers. The Knicks were shaky on offense (38% from field), but their hustle on the offensive glass led to 11 more field goal attempts than Indiana in the first half.
They were playing tough and working hard, but I could also see some nerves. The Knicks shot 25% from the floor and was 0-5 from three in the first quarter. They started out 4-14, and there were some obvious nerves. I'll take some nervousness as long as the Knicks are playing hard.
Some might argue that the Knicks play came from momentum as they are on a 6 game win streak, and the fact that Indiana was on a rough streak. However, before this game, Indiana was on a 4 game win streak! Also, its one thing to be playing great, and its another thing to be playing tough.
The Knicks did not necessarily shoot well (36% from field), but grabbed so many rebounds (Especially offense rebounds - 10) that they had 11 more field goal attempts than Indiana. They were also playing rugged and tough defense, as Indiana shot 42% from the field and 19% from three. New York forced Indiana into 12 turnovers and 22 personal fouls. It wasn't the Knicks playing great, it was the Knicks playing tough.
In the end, the Knicks walked out with a 92-86 win over the Eastern Conference best, Indiana Pacers. The Knicks continued their 7 game win streak, by playing harder and tougher than I have ever seen. Did Phil Jackson influence them? I say yes. Yesterday was more than just a coincidence.
What do you think? Has the Phil Jackson era started off with a bang, or was this all the Knicks?