The Return Of The High-Top: Iman Shumpert Returns In Knicks London Win

 
on January 18 2013 6:19 PM
The Return Of The High-Top: Iman Shumpert Returns In Knicks London Win
It wasn't pretty, not by a long shot. The International Series between the New York Knicks and the Detroit Pistons had made this the Number One ticket in town. London's O2 Arena had been sold out for weeks, this is only the third regular season game to be played outside the U.S and it would give a good indication as to how the sport is growing in the U.K and globally. Although if the Olympics were anything to go by, the demand for high-quality basketball in this country is exceptionally high. The U.S Basketball team took the Olympics by storm, playing to sell-out crowds at every game. They captivated the crowd with their high-paced offense and all-world team that they assembled. They wanted more.. The Knicks came into this game with indifferent form, they did win their last game before heading over the pond, a home victory against the New Orleans Hornets. Injuries have ravaged them of late, which is to be expected given the age of some of the members of the team. This was the perfect time to get away from the media glare in New York and relax for a few days in an unfamiliar surroundings. The Pistons, on the other hand, have enjoyed a great run of late. Their young team seemed to have found the right balance in recent games. With second year Centre Greg Munroe and Guard Brandon Knight stepping up and taking on the roles of leaders. This would be a good chance for the Pistons to test themselves against one of the NBA elite, to see just how far they have progressed whilst having a chance to showcase their talents on the international stage. A crowd of around 20,000 filled the O2 arena and created a party atmosphere throughout the day, both in the arena and in the Bars surrounding it. There was everyone from the NBA Commissioner to New York Red Bulls Striker Thierry Henry at courtside. As well as, of course, Knicks die-hard Spike Lee, who along with former Knicks Point Guard Baron Davis met some fans before the game at a bar close to the arena. The Knicks burst out of the blocks at the start of the game. Barring Tayshaun Prince's free throws Detroit just couldn't score. Carmelo Anthony started on fire. There is no question Anthony is the premier first-quarter scorer in all of basketball and together with pressure defense great ball movement the Knicks were up by as much as 14 after the first quarter. That's not to say it was the same standard they had seen form the U.S team at the Olympics, it wasn't. It was sloppy at times, numerous turnovers from both teams and an unusual amount of travelling calls from the officials made for a stuttering start. Things got a little better in the second quarter, the Pistons showing signs of life with Bynum and Drummond contributing off the bench. The Knicks were still in control though, always doing enough to keep the Pistons at arms length. Tyson Chandler, who had experience of playing here with the U.S Team, was a monster rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor. He had amassed ten rebounds at the half and his presence made things uncomfortable for Munroe most of the night. The Knicks led by 15 at the half and seemed in control of the game. Despite the game not being close the crowd were still at attentive as they were at the start of the game. The Pistons came out firing at the start of the third quarter and had the Knicks struggling to find their rhythm. The big criticism of the Knicks this season is that when they are leading at the half they have a tendency to switch-off and let the opponent back into the game. This proved to be the case here too. It's hard to change the mindset of every player on the team, if they take this habit into the playoffs then it will come back to haunt them. A couple of three-pointers from Steve Novak and inside scoring from Amare Stoudemire ensured that they maintained the lead. The fourth remained competitive, Bynum was proving elusive and taking advantage of Kidd and Prigioni's lack of speed on defense and attacking the basket. Anthony was always a class apart in this game, he scored 26 points in this game and you hardly even noticed it. That's the difference this season with Anthony, he's taking the focus off himself and has become more of a team-orientated player. The isolations are still there, particularly when they are in need of a basket at a critical time in a game. It's not nearly as frequent as it's been throughout Anthony's career though and Anthony has become a better player as a result. The Knicks eventually came through with a 102-87 victory to the delight of most of the crowd. In truth, The Piston's were never in the game. They can take some positives from this however. The contributions off the bench from Bynum and Drummond in particular were superb. This is a young team with a good coach and this experience will only be positive. They will have taken this time to bond and using the extra practices to work on their rotations and chemistry which will only hold them in good stead down the line. How far this team goes will depend on Munroe and Knight, Prince provides them with valuable experience, having played on the Championship team. That seems like a long way off for this team and while the Playoffs might be a reach this season, the Pistons can be encouraged by what they have and they won't be far away if they don't make it. The Knicks controlled most of this game and showed some of the form that had the rest of the league sitting up and taking notice at the start of the year. While this wasn't a vintage performance, they seem to be slowly getting their swagger back. Chandler is always a presence and will need to be if this team is going to go deep in the playoffs. Anthony's scoring is effortless and has the ability to take over games, which will be needed down the stretch. J.R Smith's scoring will be invaluable off the bench and whilst he is sometimes inconsistent in pressure situations he can make a difference when he's hitting his shot. The two biggest positives of the night, came from the two returning from long-term injuries. Amare Stoudemire was exceptional off the bench with 16 points. The most encouraging thing was Stoudemire's ability to get to the line. He was creating contact which shows he's getting stronger as this is something he was avoiding previously. His minutes were being limited again, but this was the most telling sign yet that he's getting back to something like his old self. He seems to be getting used to coming off the bench too, which would have been hard for him as a career starter no matter what story he was telling the media. With Stoudemire, Smith, Novak and Prigioni coming off the bench it gives them one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Iman Shumpert's return was the highlight of the night for The Knicks. Everyone from the fans to the coaches were clearly elated when his name was announced. Thrown straight into the starting line-up, his minutes limited to around 15 minutes following his ACL injury which took 9 months to recover from. Shumpert, sporting his now famous high-top, was a little off with his shot and missed the chance to make himself a poster by missing a dunk, but he showed signs that he could be the missing piece to the Knicks' puzzle. Shumpert is able to guard the best players in the league with his stifling defense and incredible work-rate makes him one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. His shot will come with practices and time, that's not an issue. What was more pressing was the doubts people had about his ability to defend as he could before the injury. ACL's and an unforgiving basketball court can sometimes have devastating results. He showed he can get back to his best, which is extremely timely and necessary if the Knicks want to win it all. So, all-in-all a wonderful occasion in London which could only help the NBA brand grow internationally. This will always be remembered as the 'Return of the High-Top'. The missing piece? Only time will tell. Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
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