Just when it seemed like the New York Knicks were about to let slip their second consecutive game at The Garden, they were thankful that their closer was actually on the court in the dying minutes to close the game out. Carmelo Anthony, who had been tossed in New York's prior game against the Bulls after receiving two technicals, did what a superstar is supposed to do and willed the Knicks to a 94-91 victory in the team's final home game of 2012.
Anthony scored the Knicks final 12 points of the game – including six clutch free-throws late in the game – to help claw back from a five-point deficit midway through the fourth. Melo jokingly blamed the sluggish New York start (and his too) to the Garden's playing of Christmas tunes at half-time.
"I love Christmas music, but it was just the time of the game. We was down, we didn't have no energy, then they threw the 'Chestnuts are roasting,'" Anthony joked. “But we bounced back and the crowd got into it, too.”
Head coach Mike Woodson rode his superstar the entire second half, confident that he would improve on his first half stats (Anthony scored 24 of his 33 points in the final 24-minutes). As has become the norm with the coach, he praised Melo's MVP-type performance after the game.
“That was an M.V.P. performance at the end,” Woodson said. “We needed it desperately.”
The Knicks had a worrying moment when Anthony picked up his fifth personal with 3:04 remaining in the final quarter, but unlike the previous game, the forward kept his compsoure, realising his was needed on the floor, rather than in the locker room – further proof of the evolution of Anthony – scoring 12-points and grabbing a rebound from that point on. He said there was no way he was dropping two straight at home.
"Playing with five fouls, giving my teammates enough confidence to know that I'm out here [still playing] but I'm doing what I got to do to stay on the court. Once again we dug ourself a hole – we fought out the hole today – this game was one of them games we didn't want to lose," said Anthony. "We wasn't going to lose. Second half we got going defensively, made some stops. That's what we do best"
Tyson Chandler, who finished with 16-points and 8 rebounds, said Anthony did what he was supposed to as leader of this team.
"You know, it's almost expected," said Chandler. "We're going to go to him down the stretch, teams know it, we know it, and he's still able to perform. I thought he did an excellent job keeping his composure [after the fifth personal foul]."
The Eastern Conference-leading Knicks head to Los Angeles tonight for Tuesday's Christmas showdown with the Lakers. To defeat the purple-and-gold, rejuvenated by the return of Steve Nash, the Knicks understand a total team effort will be required for the entire 48-minutes.
"It's a big game," stated Anthony. "A big game for us, a big game for the league, a big game for basketball period. If we don't get excited for this game then I don't know what game we should get excited for. A big game in L.A. against the Lakers, we should be excited about that."
The game against the Lakers kicks off a three-game road swing for New York, coach Woodson exclaimed the importance of tonight's win.
“It’s important that we get this game. I want to go out on the road feeling good about ourselves before we step foot on that floor in Los Angeles to play the Lakers.”
Image courtesy of: Andrew Gombert/EPA