On an Eastern afternoon when J.R. Smith was spraying errant shots all over Madison Square Garden while Jeremy Lin watched from the bench in his finest Easter suit, Carmelo Anthony was busy resurrecting his long lost crunch time heroic habits. The Knicks mounted a 10-0 run in the final 3:45 of regulation while Anthony scored the last seven points of regulation, including a pull up 27-foot three pointer over the extended arms of Taj Gibson to send the game into overtime.
Anthony topped his heroics by drilling another three over Luol Deng from nearly the exact same spot with 8.2 ticks left that lifted the Knicks to a 100-99 victory. It was Anthony’s season-high and more importantly it was the most impressive win of the Knicks season against the league’ most aggressive defensive team. A loss would have tied them with Milwaukee for the East’s 8th seed.
Since Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire were sidelined, the Knicks have been at the bottom of the league in assists per game. They haven’t needed to rely as much on the lack of ball movement that Mike D’Antoni’s offense stressed as Anthony has reverted back to the clutch shooter and big game performer that had been absent this season.
Sunday served as a reminder to New York of why he’s considered the only scorer besides Kobe Bryant that a majority of NBA experts would rather have take the final shot. Ray Allen is the league's best shooter but he can't create his own shot as Anthony has displayed on occasion after occasion. Kevin Durant is arguably the league's most efficient scorer but it takes a certain selfish attitude that he lacks at times, which is why Russell Westbrook is just as likely to clank the final shot as Durant.
In his nine year NBA career, Anthony has attached a sizeable slate of game-winners to his resume. However, Sunday afternoon was the greatest moment in his second life as a Knick.
The only constant in Anthony’s resurgence has been the absence of Amare Stoudemire in the lineup. Even after D’Antoni’s hiring, Anthony struggled to shoot with Stoudemire on the floor.
With ten games to go, moving into the 6th seed would be a huge plus for the Knicks’ first round prospects. Unfortunately, barring a collapse by either the Celtics, Pacers, Hawks or Magic, the Heat appear locked into either the bottom two seeds with ten games to go. If Stoudemire can return at full strength and Anthony can continue playing up to the $20 million, he earns per year, the Knicks are a better matchup against the Bulls in the fist round than they are against the Miami Heat.
Anthony may have inserted his name onto the Madison Square Garden lease and reminded Knicks fans that MSG was his house, but they’ll be on the road for a pair of revenge matches against the Bulls Tuesday and the Bucks Wednesday. Sunday was a huge step forward but the Knicks work is far from over.