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There were a few moments on Wednesday night when you could talk yourself into believing that anything was possible for this Knicks team.
Jeremy Lin hitting Carmelo Anthony in transition for a thundering dunk did the trick and so did Baron Davis and J.R. Smith, who sadly bailed out on one of the more interesting hairdos of recent vintage, hooking up for a nifty reverse alley-oop.
You had Landry Fields playing aggressive basketball to open up the defense, the ball pinging around the perimeter until Steve Novak nailed an open three and even Amar'e Stoudemire knocking down an open jumper for what felt like the first time all year.
Behind all of those offensive treats was a defense that knew it was facing a wounded opponent and took full advantage. The Hawks, playing without Al Horford and Joe Johnson, were only too happy to turn the ball over -- seven times in eight possessions at one point -- to fuel the Knicks in transition and make the game a laugher before halftime.
Jared Jeffries took a few charges, Walt Frazier wore a suit that might have been made out of an actual tiger and things got so bleak for Atlanta that they reached into some weird mystery box to pull out Jerry Stackhouse for help on the court. Good night, no?
It was, but you'd only be telling half the story if you left things there. The Knicks were mighty sloppy, turning the ball over 21 times and Anthony shot the ball poorly for the second straight night in his attempt to knock off the rust.
The Hawks scored 10 fast break points in the first few minutes of the game, something that slowed down once the Knicks offense clicked and the Hawks were forced into half-court sets designed to end in agony.
It's still distressing to think what a fuller team, say the one in Miami that will be Thursday's opponent, might be able to do to a team so disinterested in covering their own rear.
So there's work to be done on this team, but that work was mixed with a much more complete effort on both ends of the floor than we saw on Monday night against the Nets. Thanks to all of the turnovers, some of it just came down to guys like Novak simply hitting their shots but there was more flow throughout the night and the misses could be measured in inches rather than feet.
We'll finish up where we started with Anthony and Lin, because they are our Brangelina (Linthony?), and the good things we saw from them on Wednesday night. There was that transition dunk, another dunk and a dish for an open three at the top of the key, all of which were good but even better was the way both men worked within the larger system to make for a balanced attack that exploited any flaw in the Atlanta defense.
That's going to be the key going forward and the Knicks' appreciation of that fact is the best thing to come out of the victory over the Hawks. They'll need to be better to knock off the Heat, but their play Wednesday gave us reason to believe that they can be.