Notes on a Merry Knicksmas

Not a bad way to start a season

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Melo that saved Christmas.

    The start of the NBA season wasn't the only long awaited thing that came to pass on Sunday afternoon at the Garden.

    After going 0-8 against them last season, the Knicks finally found a way to end a game with more points than the Celtics. They came close plenty of times, but when the final buzzer sounded it was always the guys in green enjoying themselves while the Knicks talked about playing hard and finding a way to one day compete with the big boys.

    Sunday's 106-104 win was a welcome change to that script, even if it came against a Boston team without Paul Pierce and with a performance by the Knicks that can best be described as uneven. But performances can be pretty uneven when you've got Carmelo Anthony to balance everything out in the end.

    Anthony's play in the fourth quarter -- 17 of the Knicks' 27 points -- was exactly the reason why the Knicks brought him to town last season. The Celtics knew Anthony would get the ball every time down court, they knew he'd be shooting and they knew there wasn't a thing they could do to stop him without sending him to the line for free points. 

    There wasn't anything particularly fancy about it, just straight up dominant offensive basketball when the Knicks needed it most. That they needed it was where the uneven part of things came into play.

    Using aggressive defense and a balanced offense filled with ball movement, the Knicks built a lead of as many as 17 in the first half and then they promptly gave it away in the third quarter. Rajon Rondo kept leaking out for easy open buckets, Brandon Bass dominated the glass for more easy points and the Knicks found themselves down 10 as quickly as they were up big.

    Rondo was a problem all day, which is probably something we'll be saying a lot about opposing point guards this season. Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert got the run at that spot on Sunday and their bright spots were overshadowed by their defensive issues and the fact that they couldn't really run the offense all that well after all that early ball movement.

    The two of them combined to take 32 shots on Sunday compared to just 28 for Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. That's not going to work, although Shumpert showed some promise as a second unit scorer before going down for the next few weeks with a sprained knee.

    Baron Davis can't get healthy fast enough, really, because Douglas is only comfortable looking for his own shot and that's not the kind of point guard the Knicks need running their show. Everyone saw this problem coming, obviously, but there's still something disturbing about seeing it play out in living color.

    There were some other negatives -- poor rebounding, iffy interior defense, Tyson Chandler wasn't in the flow offensively -- but focusing on them too much misses the point. It was the first game of the season against a hated rival and the Knicks got the job done in the end. There's much to improve, but improving from 1-0 is certainly better than the alternative.

    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.