On a night when one Knick legend returned home to bask in a seemingly endless chorus of fan-adoration, one current Knick – and legend-to-be, perhaps, but at present, but a legend in his own mind – demonstrated exactly what he’s capable of when his intensity and heart match his copious talent. New York (26-25) absolutely destroyed the Orlando Magic at the Garden last night, led by a gutty performance by Carmelo Anthony and what has become a familiar brand of infectious team-defense under interim-coach Mike Woodson.
The Knicks are now 8-1 since the departure of Mike D’Antoni and despite the justifiable criticism over how his situation played itself out, there is no denying that Woodson has lit a blazing fire under these players; players that were positively catatonic under the previous regime.
It is ironic, of course, that prior to the game, Patrick Ewing spoke out of both sides of his mouth, first telling ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that he would never openly campaign for someone else’s job, then in the same breath that he’s very much interested in coaching the Knicks (or any other NBA team that will have him). I think the Big Fella may be reading the word “interim” a bit too literally, because if the Knicks continue their winning ways, qualify for the postseason, and then actually make some noise in the tournament, there won’t be anything temporary about Woodson’s coaching tenure.
But last night was mostly about ‘Melo.
The highly scrutinized small forward once again slid over to the 4 in Amar’e Stoudemire’s absence and he was downright dazzling, pouring in 25 points in just 26 minutes on 9-of-15 shooting, and adding in 5 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal and a block. One could make a compelling argument that this was Anthony’s second-finest performance as Knick, behind only his immortal 42-point playoff-performance against the Boston Celtics last season.
And yes, we can all continue to question where this level of commitment was from ‘Melo during the first 40 games of the season — just as myself, Mike Breen, Howard Beck, Boomer Esiason, and countless others have done — but none of that matters anymore. What does matter is how Anthony comports himself in games for the remainder of the season.
Look, no one has ever doubted Carmelo’s ability to accomplish whatever he wants on the basketball court; instead the questions have rightfully been focused around whether those wants have anything to do with winning. At some point — and maybe that point was that day D’Antoni took one for the team, so to speak — the difference between “I do this” and “I do this to win” must be bridged. For one night, anyway, it certainly seemed like it was.
One can only hope it continues.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- ‘Melopalloza! When he wasn’t keeping his injured groin loose on the stationary bike just inside one of the MSG tunnels, Anthony was kicking tush and taking names. This was the kind of all-around game that Carmelo-apologists will now surely cite as evidence of his greatness, and it should serve as a warning shot across the bows of every Eastern Conference foe that will face the Knicks during the season’s homestretch. Quite simply, if ‘Melo brings it like this every night, there is not a team in the league that the Knicks can’t give a run for their money, Amar’e or no Amar’e. That’s how good #7 was, not only dominating the opposition, but getting his teammates involved and inspiring them to give it their all.
- Back on May 30th of last year, a wise man once said of Iman Shumpert: “[I]t just seems to me that a defensive player with unparalleled physical gifts at his position is just the sort of blank canvas that New York needs during this critical off-season.” Well, after all the debate about whether or not Shump (25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists) is an elite defender — he is — his offense is starting to catch up. Of late, Iman has been much less indecisive with his shot attempts, and he has also been drifting less from long-range. From a defensive perspective, with Tyson Chandler manning the middle and Iman hounding opposing players on the perimeter, the Knicks can be menacing. In fact, per Ian Begley, the Knicks have held their opponents to just 86 points-per-game on 44.6% shooting under Woodson. Giddyup!
- Of Steve Novak’s 241 field goal attempts this season, 195 of those have been of the three-point variety. I’m no math wizard, but that comes out to just about 81% of his shots coming from beyond the arc, a proportion that is absolutely dizzying. In this bizarre Knicks season, however, it all makes perfect sense since Novak is shooting 48.2% from long-range. Yup, you can almost imagine it now; Glen Grunwald telling Jim Dolan back in December: “Look, we will totally be fine this season, just as long as Novak clears waivers so we can sign him. Trust me on this one, Bub.” Last night against the Magic, Steve was a major reason why the Knicks won the second quarter by a crazy 32-12 margin, as the guy who looks like he should be named “Stretch” really forced the defense to pick their poison.
- Forget all that “DOOM BIZZLE” stuff I wrote, Baron Davis was fantastic last night. Taking his cues from ‘Melo, Baron admirably fought through a sore hamstring — he shared the same stationary bike when not in use — en route to 11 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and just two turnovers. Also, Woodson wisely played Davis for just 25 minutes in the blowout, a key detail since the Knicks have a back-to-back coming up Friday and Saturday, and the status of Jeremy Lin (knee) remains up in the air.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Nothing. Absolutely nothing! Unless you’re Dwight Howard, who was held to 12 measly points on just 7 shots by Chandler.
- Oh, that guy Quentin Richardson made it through the game without getting into a fight or injuring his back. This was disappointing, to say the least.
- Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) reportedly spoke to the players before the game and told them to “Hug it out, bitches.”
- Shumpert, a Chicago native, left the arena sporting a Bears cap. Luckily, he managed to escape bodily injury. GO BIG BLUE!
- Up next for the Knicks: Friday, 7:30 p.m. @ ATL, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. v. CLE
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Photo By Chris Trotman/Getty Images