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This game was over the second the Bulls went up by nine in the fourth quarter. The Knicks had blown a 21-point lead and were as good as dead. Then Carmelo Anthony went supernova.
Melo had his finest game in New York, pouring in 43 points and hitting two absolutely insane, brass-balls, cold-blooded shots to send the game to overtime and then win it. He showed once again that, when he is healthy and motivated, there is no one who can score like Carmelo Anthony. He spun and twisted to the hoop, he pulled up for threes, he picked and popped and brought home a win for a team that desperately needs any win they can get.
But let me be perfectly frank – we all reserve the right to change our minds as soon as the Knicks blow an easy game to the Wizards, or the next time they take a 21-point lead at home and give it all back and more.
A thought crossed my mind while watching the Knicks take an easy win and turn it into a difficult one. Yes, the Bulls have the best record in the league. Yes, they were playing at full strength and Derrick Rose had a fantastic second half until turning into a shrinking violet in crunch time. Yes, the Knicks are without two key pieces, and still played with defensive intensity and pride.
But this may be the worst team on which Carmleo Anthony has ever played.
Think about it for a second: Melo is a scoring machine, but needs to be surrounded by capable offensive players. Instead, he has a half-lame Baron Davis, the offensively… “limited” Tyson Chandler, the trying-his-hardest Landry Fields, and two high volume, low efficiency brick layers in Iman Shumpert and (especially) JR Smith. Off the bench, two white guys who need to be wide open to be effective and a backup backup PG who was out of the rotation for two solid months. Let’s just say Melo did not sign up for this when he engineered his trade to NY.
Knicks not named Carmelo or Tyson shot a piddling 29% from the field on Sunday. Go ahead and thank JR Smith for most of that, thanks to his Iversonian 6-22 shooting, including an Antione Walker-esque 2-11 from beyond the arc. Also thank the gutting-it-out Baron Davis, who hit one out of seven, and Steve Novak, who had a game tying three-pointer go so far into the basket before popping out that it seemed to defy all laws of physics. It hardly mattered, since Melo decided to take over and make sure the Knicks did not squander their best opportunity to get the home stretch off right.
This Knicks squad continues to befuddle most casual observers. At times, they are capable of outright dominance. They plug holes in the lineup and move on without missing a beat. They play hard and to their ceiling – which is apparently the eighth seed, nothing more.
This is a poorly constructed basketball team that is hanging tough based on sheer talent and no power forward. They often play three guards, a swingman and a center. They often play four guys at once who would struggle to even crack the roster of most contenders. They suddenly have the best home crowd in the league and fan favorites galore. And yet, it seems like this team is destined for dismantling.
Look, anyone who thought the Knicks were winning a championship this year was crazy, and anyone who thought they would secure home court advantage in the first round was equally nuts. I openly pined for the six seed last week, and I feel like an idiot. Sunday was a HUGE win, for certain, and the game against Milwaukee next week may decide which team gets to play on and which gets to watch ping pong balls.
Let’s hope that Melo has a few more eruptions like this left for this season, because the Bucks are breathing down NY’s neck, and their schedule is a heck of a lot easier.