Different Looks Lead to Different (and Better) Knicks Result

Knicks snap four-game losing streak against the Sixers

By Josh Alper
|  Monday, Feb 25, 2013  |  Updated 7:55 AM EDT
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Fight returned to the Knicks on Sunday night.

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Going the glass half full route about Sunday night's 99-93 Knicks win over the Sixers would be quite easy.

The Sixers are a bad team who rode a losing streak into the Garden, including a loss on Saturday night that helped keep them from having a full tank of energy to use against the Knicks. The Knicks flirted with a blowout more than once over the course of the evening, but wound up in a close game in the final minutes because they couldn't bang the final nail into the coffin. 

Had this win come back in November when the Knicks were flying high, you'd probably get away with acting like it was something less than exactly what the doctor ordered. Since these Knicks have lost four straight games, however, you can't split hairs in quite the same way. 

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You have to be happy to see that the team's recent inability to handle even the slightest pushback from an opponent didn't rear its ugly head. The Knicks might not have thrived on Sunday, but they didn't give in when things didn't go their way either and that's a welcome change of pace from the last few outings. 

Carmelo Anthony's game was a prime example of that. His jumper was not falling, but Anthony decided not to be totally reliant on that shot to get points. He took the ball to the hoop, drew foul after foul and hit 16-of-18 free throws to wear down the visitors. 

That wasn't the only change in approach that worked out for the Knicks. We also saw them use an unusual lineup to great effect in both halves. Tyson Chandler stayed on the court with four reserves -- Amar'e Stoudemire, Steve Novak, J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni -- and the Knicks sparked big runs each time that group was on the court. 

Stoudemire was the standout in the first half, scoring 11 points in 13 minutes, and Smith nailed three big threes to slow Philly's momentum in the fourth quarter to help carry the team to the win. The spacing that Novak and Smith provided on offense opened up a lot of space for Stoudemire on the interior, something that makes you wonder how much longer the Knicks can stick with Iman Shumpert in the starting lineup. 

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Defenses don't respect Shumpert's shot, leaving them to devote more attention to stopping Anthony and stamping out any lob action to Chandler. The offense stagnates and the old problems bubble back to the surface.

Whether it is Smith, Novak or even Chris Copeland, the Knicks have to put someone else on the wing who demands defensive attention because it opens up all kinds of ball movement opportunities that haven't existed otherwise. Playing Shumpert back into shape is something that makes all kinds of sense in the abstract, but this team's built to win now and Shumpert isn't helping them do that. 

Different approaches did help them on Sunday and we'll find out soon enough if that's a step in the right direction or just the right opponent for a team that's still flirting with disaster. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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