Melo and the bench lead Knicks to blowout win over Nets
The Knicks picked up a much needed win last night against the crosstown rival Nets. It was a team that they should beat and they did handily after a poor first half. The Knicks continued to struggle in the first quarter of games defensively, but the second half proved to be their best defensive performance of the young season. Granted it was against a really bad team in the Nets, but it was still good to see the Knicks hold Brooklyn to 41 second half points while shooting under 30% from the field.
The difference in last night's game was a scoring surge from Melo in the third quarter and the second unit lead by Brandon Jennings and the young Europeans. Vintage Melo showed up last night when he scored 14 straight points in the quarter to give the Knicks a lead they would never give back. He made six straight baskets at one point and almost single handedly outscored the Nets and their 16 points in the quarter. Late in the third and early in the fourth quarter the Knicks bench and Kristaps Porzingis took over the game to turn things into a blowout. Brandon Jennings had eleven assists off the bench and set up all nine of KP's fourth quarter points to put the game out of reach. Willy Hernangomez had the best game of his young career with 14 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes. Mindaugas Kuzminskus also contributed some solid minutes off the bench with a +23 rating in his 17 minutes. Last night was a clear sign that these two young guns can play and should be given more minutes moving forward. They came in and helped changed the team's performance on the defensive end. Along with Jennings and Sasha Vujacic they helped hound the Nets on offense and made it very difficult to find some open looks.
Jennings' 11 assists last night were another reason why he needs to receive 25-30 minutes a night. He's the Knicks best distributor and brings energy to the court every time he enters a game. He's a pass first point guard which is a nice thing to have to contrast with Derrick Rose. Early in his Knick career Jennings is always looking for his teammates specifically Porzingis. They have already developed a nice connection on the court which will only keep growing as the season moves on. When Melo got in his zone Jennings was looking to get the ball to him every possession which is something you need out of your point guard. Hopefully we'll see more of Jennings paired with Lee and Rose in the back court late in games in the future.
Moving forward the Knicks will have a tough stretch their next two game on the road. They'll face a tough back to back starting Friday in Boston before heading to Toronto Saturday night. It should be a nice test to see where this team stands early in the season against two division rival playoff teams in hostile environments. They're going to need a a defensive showing like last night's second half if they want to come away with some W's.