Carmelo Anthony’s showing against the Charlotte Hornets only proved that he is still the man for the New York Knicks.
No matter what, this was his moment.
‘Melo’s fallaway jumper — two of his season-high 35 points — was the dagger in the Knicks hard-fought, impressive win against a very good opposition.
The Charlotte Hornets, who forced seven games against the Miami Heat last year, are not the slouches they used to be. But, evidently, neither are these Knicks, who have won six in a row at home and are currently sitting at 8-7, over .500 for the first time this season.
Despite falling behind by 13 in the third quarter, and despite being pegged back several times when they had quality chances to win, they managed to grind out the victory.
This win also solidified a question that has been asked a lot this year: whose team are the Knicks? Are they Carmelo Anthony’s, or Kristaps Porzingis’?
Despite the massive sophomore leap by KP, who had his fair share of heroics Friday night, including an emphatic block on Cody Zeller in transition and a massive corner three late in overtime, the Knicks still belong to their captain and superstar.
‘Melo’s 35 points were vital, but it wasn’t just his scoring that propelled New York to victory. He added 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and posted a +7 point differential. Porzingis, despite pouring in 16 points, had a -12 point differential.
Anthony started early, scoring 16 points in the first quarter. He was key in engineering the Knicks’ 22-4 run that brought them from down 13 to up five. He executed two perfect passes to Willy Hernangomez in the fourth quarter, giving the Spaniard two huge, easy buckets underneath in the final three minutes of regulation.
And while he missed the chance to win the game in regulation at the buzzer (the shot rolled in and out), he bounced back and took over the extra period.
With 1:21 left in overtime, Anthony denied Kemba Walker a chance to tie the game. With 45 seconds left in overtime, Anthony rocketed a pass to Porzingis in the corner, who nailed an open three to give the Knicks the lead. And, of course, with seven seconds left, Anthony hit the decisive, game-winning jumper to give the Knicks their third consecutive victory.
Games like these could define New York’s season. Against a top-tier Charlotte team with a bevy of weapons (Kemba Walker and Nic Batum are fringe All-Stars, Marco Belinelli is lethal from three, and the Frank Kaminsky–Cody Zeller duo has been performing quite well recently), and who don’t turn the ball over (Charlotte has committed the fewest turnovers in the NBA the last three seasons), home wins like these can turn into statements.
The Knicks, as a team, made a statement. Porzingis proved his clutch side, both offensively and defensively. Courtney Lee played huge defense against his former team. Derrick Rose hit a massive jumper in regulation to give the Knicks breathing room, and blocked Kemba Walker’s attempt at a game-winning three in overtime. Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Hernangomez proved they can hold their own down the stretch in the NBA (Kuzminskas was +13 and Hernangomez +16 on the night). Ultimately, Knicks showed they can hang with the big boys in the East.
And perhaps most importantly, Carmelo Anthony showed that, when the chips are down, the Knicks are his team. His explosive first quarter showed that. His clutch passing in the fourth quarter and overtime showed that. His massive block in transition showed that. And, of course, his game-winning shot with three seconds left showed that.
Some day, the Knicks will be Kristaps Porzingis’ team. For now, however, they belong to No. 7.