Back in the late ‘70’s, there was a rap song called Reasons to be Cheerful 1.2,3. I thought of that cut while observing the current New York Knicks winning streak, winning seven out of their last eight. Yes, I am cheerful, very cheerful. But as you evaluate the rationale for their recent success, there are three main reasons. Those reasons include the return of Ronny Turiaf, the wing players not jacking up threes at the first opportunity and you have the play of Raymond Felton. I don’t know if any reason has more to do with the team’s success than any another. However, collectively they are the main reasons why the Knicks are on a roll.
With their 125-116 double overtime victory over the Pistons on Sunday, the Knicks reached .500 mark for the first time this late in a campaign since the Van Gundy era. That’s a sad statement but it is true. The season started off with some promise. However, the Knicks fell victim to the same issues that plagued them over the past five or six years. They were rushing their shots. They were not playing any defense. And they were not getting consistent point guard play.
With Turiaf out due to injury, the defensive effort was lacking to say the least. Opponents have not had their merry way in the paint upon his return to the Knicks. The 6’9’’ power forward/center has provided the team with the toughness and inside presence that allows Amar’e Stoudemire to do his thing.
One of the things that made me want to throw the remote at the TV while watching the Knicks over the past half decade was their propensity to hoist up three point shots at an alarming rate. Just because you have an open shot does not mean you should take it. They would jack up long distant shots early in the play or with no one under the basket. During this present run, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler have not just been settling for the quick three. They are also driving the ball toward the basket. This has allowed them to get in a better rhythm and has also putting them on the foul line as well. With Gallinari and Chandler moving with and without the ball, the offense is running much smoother and making both players more efficient.
Speaking of efficient, Felton is playing out of his mind lately. He has posted numbers like 35 points, 11 assists, against Golden State. In Los Angeles, he handed out 9 assists and scored 20 points against the Clippers. Then, on Sunday, he scored 23 points and dished out 11 assists while playing over 53 minutes. He came into camp a little out of shape. But now that he has gotten his legs under him, he is playing like an All-Star. I assure you if Felton continues to play anywhere near this level, look out. This team can make some noise this spring.
I know a lot of the Knicks’ continued success will hinge on their ability to stay healthy. You saw what happened when Turiaf went out. Should any one of their main other cogs go down due to an injury for any extended period of time, things could get ugly quick. But if they can stay healthy, Chandler and Gallinari stay aggressive, attacking the basket, and Felton continues at his current pace, the Garden will be rocking like it was in the late ‘90’s.