A Tale of Two Halves Ends Well for Knicks

Thoughts of a dreadful first half disappear after a nearly perfect second half

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Mar 1, 2012  |  Updated 8:00 AM EDT
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And it's Novak for the win.

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It has been said that a dream delayed is a dream deferred, but that clearly didn't have anything to do with the game of basketball.

The dream for the Knicks is to go from being a disjointed unit to a well-balanced machine that can beat teams thanks to their depth, athleticism and offensive savvy. During the first 24 minutes against the Cavaliers on Wednesday night, they looked only disjointed as stagnant offense and indifferent defense combined to hand Cleveland a 12-point halftime lead.

As it turns out, that was a mere delay. The dream came true in the second half as the Knicks roared back to outscore the Cavs 71-42 on their way to a 120-103 win that left Madison Square Garden as giddy as it was during the heights of Linsanity.

There are plenty of kudos to go around, but, oddly, you've got to start with the bench. The Knicks second unit -- we're soliciting nicknames for a group that's better than most starting fives the team has trotted out over the last decade -- scored 50 points overall and 38 of them in the third and fourth quarters as they captured center stage. 

Steve Novak dropped five bombs from long range, did the discount double check (and got Tyson Chandler to do it as well) and heard the crowd chanting for his return after he left the game with five minutes to play. That's not the most illogical thing that's happened during this Knicks season which really tells you just how far through the looking glass we are at this point. 

Baron Davis played like the fevered Baron Davis dreams everyone used to have before another point guard stole our hearts. He pushed the ball, added a little flair to every pass and set up J.R. Smith with an awfully pretty reverse alley-oop.

Iman Shumpert returned from injury with a dunk that might have retroactively won him the dunk contest and the kind of energy that reminded everyone why the Knicks missed him so much. He also played his typically strong defense, something that shouldn't get lost in the points explosion.

The whole comeback was spurred by a changed defensive mentality in the second half, starting with Tyson Chandler dominating the paint in the early minutes and continuing with Shump, Jared Jeffries and J.R. Smith once the bench mob came rolling into the game.

Chandler's blocks, Shumpert's steals and the overall thwarting of easy shots turned into transition opportunities that the Knicks rode to victory.

All in all, it's the kind of stuff that makes Mike D'Antoni's mustache twitch with great satisfaction. And that's not even the best part of the whole night.

The winner in that category is the fact that we haven't even mentioned Carmelo Anthony or Jeremy Lin yet. Both men played well, yet faded into the mosiac with their teammates.

Lin had 19 points, 13 assists and one turnover in an efficient game that makes any lingering doubts from the Miami loss disappear. Anthony scored 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting and helped key the comeback with drives for buckets or fouls to start the third quarter.

We won't harp on Amar'e Stoudemire because this is a time for rejoicing and happiness in the valley. Rome wasn't built in a day and, apparently, Stoudemire can't be fixed in one All-Star break.

That's a worry for another time, though. Everything else is working like a charm and the Knicks gave a little hint of just what they can be this season.

On to Boston and, hopefully, their first winning record in quite a while.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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