"How about those Knicks?," exclaimed Mike Woodson immediately after the New York Knicks came back from 17-points down at one stage of the first half, to defeat the Brooklyn Nets in the second regular season game of their emerging rivalry. What the coach really meant to say was, 'How about Carmelo Anthony?' The Knicks forward – and Brooklyn native – scored 45-points (23 in the second half), to lead New York in a game that Anthony admitted he was not going to allow his team to lose.
21-games into the 2012-13 NBA season and there is no longer any questioning Anthony's MVP credentials. He is legitimately in the race, as proved by tonight's performance. Anthony was on a mission from the outset, mainly because the rest of his team needed a sharp volt to snap out of their early funk. "It's almost like we spotted them 30-points," explained Melo about the Knicks slow start. "We came out with no eneregy, it seemed like we wasn't into the game. Once we settled down, made some plays, made some defensive stops, we got our confidence back [and] it was a game from there."
Melo displayed his new 'MVP' mentality against the Nets, a game he just dominated. He scored 15-points (on 5/6 field goals) in the final quarter alone, but more importantly he didn't force any shots; rather he was patient with his. When the double-team came – and it came often from the Nets throughout the night – Anthony kicked it out to the open man, including on the eventual game-winning three with 22.9 seconds left in the final quarter.
It was Anthony's pass from another double-team that led to Raymond Felton finding the wide-open Kidd for the go-ahead triple. Head coach Mike Woodson acknowledged the level that Anthony is playing at right now.
“Hey, he’s an MVP guy. He’s playing at such a high level,” coach Woodson said. “He got double-teamed, and he sacrificed the ball when that happened. Boy, to me, that says a lot, because he’s got to do that. The guys around him, he trusts those guys to make shots. . . . What can you say."
"I didn't want to [lose]," said Anthony. "I feel like the last game we played here, we kind of beat ourselves. We had a chance to win that game [in overtime] and we kinda' got tired, tonight was just one of them games where we had to dig ourselves out of a hole from that first quarter, settle down, keep our composure and keep fighting."
It's going to take more than two-games to forge a rivalry between these two, they'll reacquaint themselves at Madison Square Garden again next week – and once more in late January – but you sense that if Melo sustains the high-level he has set for himself so early in the season, those MVP whispers will grow louder as the season progresses and this rivalry develops.
Not that Melo is buying into any of that talk right now.
“It’s early. We’re not even through December yet,” said Anthony. “It’s still early for us, it’s still early for me. We’re still getting better as a team. We’re still learning how to play basketball as a team and how to win tough games like this. At the end of the season, if that’s it, then we’ll see.”
Spoken like a true leader.
Image via : Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News