Raymond Felton struggled to keep up with Goran Dragic on offense. Credit: Getty Images
It wasn’t easy, but the Knicks continued their torrid stretch by knocking off the Suns, 98-96, in overtime for their fifth straight win.
Carmelo Anthony, fresh off earning the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week award, led the Knicks (15-22) with a game-high 29 points, as the reigning league scoring champion showed his versatility by notching a double-double by halftime. Anthony finished with a game-high 16 rebounds, but his best moment came with 53 seconds remaining when he found point guard Raymond Felton in the corner for the wide-open 3-pointer.
“I just trust him. I trust the whole team,” said Anthony. “But when I went to the hole, I didn’t have a shot so I made that pass. I saw him open out of the corner of my eye and just trusted he’d make the shot. He came through.”
The lead wouldn’t last, however, as Kenyon Martin was whistled for a foul on Leandro Barbosa with 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation. The veteran shooting guard coolly knocked down both freebies to send the game into overtime.
“They called the foul, but I thought [Martin] had his hands on top of the ball,” said head coach Mike Woodson, who declined to publicly criticize the officials. “But again, Barbosa made an aggressive play to get the foul. It worked out in his favor because he was able to knock down the two free throws to force overtime.”
The extra session proved to be too much for the Suns, though, as they failed to make a field goal. Woodson said he was impressed with his team’s fortitude in overtime, as they didn’t allow themselves to get down after the Martin foul.
“Defensively we were solid. [Phoenix] shot 35 percent from the field and [came in] averaging about 103 points per game, so I thought our defense was right where we needed it to be — especially when we were down five, we stiffened,” said Woodson. “It was a total team effort and it was our defense that carried us down the home stretch.”
Anthony’s all-around exploits were the catalyst, but he wasn’t alone. Felton held his own against the Suns’ slippery point guard, Goran Dragic. Felton managed to contribute 19 points to offset Dragic’s big night of 28 points (four 3-pointers). Dragic’s tally was a team high, but he was slowed down considerably after halftime, as Felton and Co. held him to eight points in the final two frames and overtime.
“We won this game on the defensive end. We did what we had to do and that’s why we won the game,” said Anthony. “We’re all working hard. It’s starting to come along.”
New York came out of the halftime on a 14-3 run to start the third quarter, building a 10-point lead, but fell into a lull to start the final quarter, as the Suns completely erased a 13-point deficit to take a one-point lead with 5:50 remaining. The final frame of regulation play featured stretches of action that saw Barbosa record eight straight points in the midst of a 9-0 run.
The Knicks have held each opponent under 100 points during their winning streak, as Woodson thinks his team has finally realized how to close out games.
“We lost some close games early in the year and honestly there were some boneheaded plays on all our part. We didn’t do the right things then, but I think we’re starting to figure things out now,” said Woodson. “Even when we were down five, guys felt good where we were and thought we had plenty of time to secure the win. During this stretch it’s been mainly our defense because we’re only allowing about 92 points per game. This [streak] has been defensive-led and a total team effort.”
Knicks notes ...
» Suns forward Markieff Morris was ejected midway through the second quarter.
» The Knicks improved to 2-1 in overtime games, while the Suns fell to 0-2.
» New York outrebounded yet another opponent during this winning streak, as they banged around the Suns, 53-49. The Knicks have now outrebounded three straight opponents, which is a pleasant surprise for a squad that entered Monday night ranked 29th in total boards. Anthony led all with 16 rebounds, and was so aggressive on the glass that he tallied a double-double by the start of the third quarter. Kenyon Martin (nine rebounds), Iman Shumpert (nine), Andrea Bargnani (seven) and Amar’e Stoudemire (seven) also contributed in one of the Knicks’ best rebounding efforts of the season.
» Despite being the stingiest team in the league, with a league-low 452 turnovers, the Knicks were forced into 18 turnovers. Felton, who had a stellar game the last time he played in front of the Garden crowd with a 14:2 assist-to-turnover ratio against the Heat, was nowhere near his efficient self as the caretaker of the ball. Felton only had one assist to go with two turnovers. Woodson said while Felton played well, he “needs more” out of his lead guard in both ball security and on pressuring the ball.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter@TBone8.