By Samindra Kunti – One quarter was all that the Knicks required to defeat the Pistons on an eve when they collectively failed, but were aided by talisman Carmelo Anthony, whose tentacles of influence and 34 points guided New York on its way.
“I have seen him score so many points. When he shoots the ball like that he is probably the toughest guy in the League to guard. He can score inside and outside. There isn’t anything he can’t do,” said J.R. Smith of Anthony Carmelo.
Carmelo was in imperious form. He laboured hard in the back court and found the hoop with ease, scoring six three-pointers and four rebounds. The interplay with Raymond Felton, returning from injury, opened up the Pistons. New York’s number seven singlehandedly dragged his team out of a few lulls throughout the game.
Yet out with another injury in Texas, Carmelo had conveyed the message to his colleagues to apply more patience in their game and let the ball do the work. In general, few NBA franchises survive the Texas Triangle, or leave it unscathed, but a 2-1 record down south boasted the Knicks’ ambitions in the new year. “It was a positive road trip. Everything went as planned. Our defense really set the tone in all three games,” coach Mike Woodson had said. Certainly the collective effort had been impressive: the Knicks led at the end of the first quarter in each game with an average differential of 5.7 points and their rebounding improved markedly.
But against the Pistons Anthony’s message was soon forgotten. A pitiful first half was unworthy of NBA basketball. A lone highlight was perhaps the play of Andrea Bargnani as the ball gravitated towards him. The center scored 9 points, including a three-pointer, inside the opening five minutes. The Knicks then lost their flow, and despite the Pistons’ low outfield scoring rate of 33%, were just 24-21 up after the first quarter. New York staggered in lethargic fashion, stumbling and bumbling around. The Pistons were equally bad offensively and therefore both outfits did not deserve more than being tied at the half, 41-41.
The Knicks needed to come out with another mind-set after the interval, but the lack of tenacity continued to bother them. Bafflingly enough Woodson’s men were unable to force the Pistons out of the paint. A livid Woodson called a time-out. It resulted in a hat-trick of three-pointers, including two corner treys, from the ever reliable Anthony Carmelo. The gusto and energy from the Texas road trip were back as the Knicks powered to a 15-o run in 3.31 minutes. They outscored the Pistons 32-17 to lead 73-58.
In the first game, back in Detroit, the Pistons had run away with the third quarter and never looked back. In reverse roles, the visitors did catch up this time, storming back into the game. With 3.20 minutes left the Pistons had cut back New York’s lead to just three points, 83-80. Fittingly Anthony Carmelo had the final say. Another three-pointer and free-throws were enough to keep the surging Pistons from snatching the win.
Melo was the Knicks’ most valuable player yet again. Without Anthony, New York would be decapitated. Next time when Melo has another thing to say, his colleagues ‘d better listen more carefully.