It’s safe to say at this point that the Knicks have a pretty good homecourt advantage working for them. Winners of 5 straight in the Garden, and 6-2 on the year at home, New York put down two playoff hopefuls in three days with exciting wins over Atlanta and Portland. Now, with a couple of upcoming home and homes against Charlotte and Minnesota, it’s time to see if they can continue to protect MSG while starting to develop into a team capable of stealing a few on the road.
Readers should note these last two victories came without Joakim Noah, who sat out Tuesday with the same mysterious illness that made him a last second scratch for Sunday’s noon tip-off. While the narrative over the weekend focused on D-Leaguer Marshall Plumlee sprinting through the New York streets and bribing his cab driver to make the game on time, it’s a little more disconcerting how good the Knicks have looked without Noah in the lineup. Both Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez did an admirable job of boxing out human wrecking ball Dwight Howard on Sunday, and Hornacek snuck out the win on Tuesday by playing small with Porzingis at the 5 down the clutch. KP still isn’t quite thick enough to rebound like a starting center, but the offensive firepower the Knicks have when he spaces the floor is a dangerous weapon to have for 5-6 minute stretches. And besides, other than a season-high for the afterthought Ed Davis, ‘Zingis just MURDERED the Portland big men.
Noah aside, the rest of the Knicks’ offseason acquisitions have played sharp at home. This site highlighted Justin Holliday’s performance in the Detroit game, but on Tuesday night it was Mindaugus Kuzminskas (!!) who actually closed the game next to Carmelo Anthony. ‘Kuz, as Clyde has been calling him, has the reputation of a one-sided offensive player, but he offset his defensive limitations by gambling for a couple of steals and hitting some huge three pointers. Jennings also did an excellent job, racking up ten assists on a night where Derrick Rose got called for a foul Every Single Time he tried to fight through a Plumlee screen. These guys are all backups, to be sure, but it’s turning into a pretty decent rotation for New York, especially once Lance Thomas is able to come back from injury.
Of course, all of this has to translate into playing well away from MSG. The Knicks have been masters this season of following up an exciting home win with an absolutely flat, lifeless performance on the road. They won’t face that test just yet, as Friday’s matchup with Charlotte is still in New York, and might be the game that finally bumps them above .500, but they have a big West Coast trip at the beginning of December. It’s still too early to tell whether these exciting wins have been a product of that homecourt advantage or the big meeting the Knicks had after their pummeling in D.C., but whatever it is, it’s working. Porzingis and Melo look great, the role players are starting to round into form, and the Garden is Rocking!