It finally happened.
An occurrence many considered unthinkable — a Knick victory — transpired last night as New York defeated Orlando in overtime, thanks to Carmelo Anthony’s best performance since “the trade,” some questionable officiating, and a late-game implosion by the Magic’s Dwight Howard.
On the heels of his 36 point effort in a loss to Charlotte on Saturday, Anthony poured in a game-high 39 points — 19 of which came in during a dizzying third-quarter array — and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Perhaps more encouraging than his offensive prowess, Anthony was all over the court, bringing a level of defensive intensity thus far unseen from him as a Knick. He made hustle plays for loose balls, he frequently drove to the basket instead of settling for jump shots, and he connected on 13 of his 17 free throw attempts.
Amar’e Stoudemire (kinda-sorta) showed signs of bouncing back from his lackluster play of late by adding 20 points and nine rebounds in the affair.
That said, Amar’e still appears to lack any lift in his vertical game, and he once again looked timid and unsure of himself on the offensive end during crunch time. That he only took 10 shots for the game fits a pattern that must be broken if the Knicks are to have any hope in playing competitively once the playoffs begin.
Poor officiating was a constant theme throughout the affair, but that was hardly unexpected with “Knick” Bavetta generously dusting himself off from beyond the grave to make an appearance at The Garden. In fact, the teams combined for 59 fouls and four players fouled out.
Howard was held without a field goal in the first half, mostly due to the gutty defensive play of Sheldon Williams, whose +7 plus/minus in 15:51 speaks volumes about his contribution. Ultimately, Howard ended up fouling out in OT, and then picked up a foolish technical foul to boot with the game on the line.
Next up for the Knicks are the New Jersey Nets at home tomorrow night. PG Deron Williams is expected to to play (wrist).
A closer look at the game film suggests that it’s not ‘Melo who is having such a hard time adjusting to Amar’e, but perhaps it’s quite the opposite. This is especially obvious on plays where Anthony is in isolation, and Stoudemire floats invisibly on the weak-side, almost as if waiting for the offensive possession to mercifully conclude.
Stoudemire’s inability to play with his back to the basket — a deficiency usually hidden by Coach D’Antoni’s ball-movement offense — makes playing the two-man game with Anthony much more difficult to implement. That Anthony is not a PG by trade only makes things worse as he can’t be expected to deliver the ball with any degree of consistency to Stoudemire off pick-and-rolls.
It’s a problem that isn’t going to go away overnight, either.
Both Anthony and Stoudemire need to improve certain facets of their respective games — skills they may not have needed to utilize during their careers until now — if they wish to elevate the impact of collective star power.