Carmelo Anthony had a rough night shooting the basketball. He took a seat a few minutes into the fourth quarter, and while he was on the bench, the New York Knicks went on a scintillating run, one that gave them an insurmountable lead over the Hawks at a very pro-Knicks Philips Arena tonight. Amare Stoudemire led the way for the Knicks (32-29) with 26 points, but it was the Knicks’ defense that catapulted them Sunday night. They allowed a season-low 79 points, as the Hawks (37-26) turned the ball over 19 times.
The third and fourth quarter saw the Knicks’ bench step up in a big way. With Chauncey Billups out for the third straight game due to injury, Anthony Carter was forced into action and stepped up in a big way. The Georgia native, back at home, scored 10 points including seven during a solid third quarter. With Bill Walker out of the game as well, seldom-used Roger Mason got significant minutes, and provided solid defense. He also hit two threes, one of them during a big 16-2 Knicks’ run in the fourth quarter that essentially put the game away. Shawne Williams was also important down the stretch, hitting four three pointers for 12 points.
Anthony had a rough night, going just 6-18 from the field. The Knicks’ offense was pretty stagnant with him in the game, and a lot more fluid when he was on the bench. But more times than not, Anthony will hit the shots he missed tonight, so the Knicks are by no means better without Anthony. They are still trying to find a balance between isolating him and using ball movement to get other looks at the basket.
Mason’s performance, while nothing special, cannot and should not be overlooked. When Walker comes back, it will be interesting to see if D’Antoni goes right back to him and puts Mason back on the bench. Color me as someone who would stick with Mason and let him get in a groove. He’s a great three point shooter and a more reliable defender than Walker. In big games, and especially in the playoffs, Mason’s experience and shot-making ability could prove to be a good asset. We’ll see if D’Antoni decides to use it.