By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
KNICKS 102, 76ERS 92 | WELLS FARGO CENTER
How it Happened:
Keeping up with a recend trend, the Knicks spent more time preserving a double-digit lead tonight in Philadelphia than they did building it. After overpowering the young 76ers, 102-92, New York is now 5-1 in 2014.
The Sixers would draw to within eight with just over a minute to play, but with the Knicks in control since an explosive 2nd quarter, the outcome never felt in jeopardy. J.R. Smith, making his return to the lineup after a one-game rest, played his best basketball of the season and was instrumental in the win.
With the Knicks down 28-20 after one, then Smith entered the game and everything changed. He started off with consecutive assists and an aggressive drive to the basket that netted him two free throws. Locked in from the moment he hit the floor, he would finish the 2nd quarter with 11 points on 4 for 4 shooting, with four assists and a whopping +20 rating.
Amar'e Stoudemire (21 points on 10 shots in 22 minutes on the floor) managed to one-up his teammate, connecting on all five of his shots for 10 points to go with five rebouds in the quarter. The Knicks had stormed past Philadelphia and would take a 12-point lead into halftime.
From there, they continued to do what's been working so well recently en route to a comfortable win -- their fifth in six games. They moved the ball as well as they had all season, racking up 26 assists as a team and almst certainly that many hockey assists -- the passes that lead to the assists. They were active on the offensive glass, coming up with a handful of tipped balls that kept possessions alive.
All in all, it was another positive step in a string of strong team efforts. Carmelo Anthony pumped in 18 points but like the rest of his teammates, kept the ball swinging around the perimeter. He finished with seven assists and nine rebounds.
Knick of the Night:
Stoudemire's 8-for-10 shooting performance was impressive, but the way J.R. Smith responded when his team needed him was the most important factor in this game. His final stat line screams of efficiency: 14 points on 8 shots (3-4 from 3), 6 assists.
The Knicks return home to face the playoff-contending Phoenix Suns on Monday at the World's Most Famous Arena.