The Knicks insist they don’t want to be so dependent on Carmelo Anthony. But there are times when they just can’t help it.
Sunday night was an example of that as they rode Anthony’s 42 points to a 106-104 win over the Hawks.
Anthony has said and done all the right things this year about wanting to get others involved, but when his teammates aren’t able to pick up the slack, he needs to revert back to his truest form — a skilled gunner.
“It’s just a matter of me making and taking shots,” Anthony said. “I know I can make them, but when I’m hitting them it opens up so much more for myself and my teammates. My shot was falling and the extra swing passes really helped everyone get open looks tonight, and that’s what kind of happened tonight.”
The MVP candidate did all he could in carrying the Knicks (27-15) to the win, as he had 17 points in the third quarter, and tied a franchise record for made 3-pointers in a game with nine.
Anthony tied the mark by the end of the third quarter, but it wasn’t an example of a guy just trying to get his numbers. Every last shot was needed because the Hawks (25-19) just wouldn’t go away. But of all his long-range daggers, his most important bucket came on the traditional 3-point play when he converted the and-one with 12.5 seconds remaining for the eventual winning points.
“He’s good on either elbow, so I just decided to let him work with some movement on the opposite end,” head coach Mike Woodson said of Anthony’s game-winning shot. “We had guys ready to take the open shot off a double team — guys like [Steve] Novak and STAT [Amar’e Stoudemire] — but when [Anthony] saw the open lane to the bucket, he went for it [and] it was nice to see him get the bucket and the free throw.”
Anthony made the most of that one-on-one matchup, but that was a rarity for most of the fourth quarter. And while he acknowledged that he wasn’t deterred by the Hawks’ constant double and triple-teaming after he lit them up in the third quarter, he noted he was more than willing to make the extra pass to an open teammate should the opportunity present itself in the waning moments.
But once the Hawks broke the huddle with seconds remaining, Anthony figured it’d be his time to shine because the Hawks fully trusted who they were throwing at him.
“When we came out of the timeout I knew they were going to put Josh Smith on me,” Anthony said. “He’s one of their best defensive players on the team and he already had me for most of the night, along with [DeShawn] Stevenson. … But I was ready. We needed this, [because] tonight was a must-win for us — especially after what happened last night in Philly.”
The Hawks almost gave the Knicks their second-straight defeat thanks to a tenacious defense and timely shots from guys like point guard Jeff Teague (team-high 27 points), Smith (20 points), Stevenson (15 points), Al Horford (16 points) and 3-point specialist Kyle Korver (13 points). They certainly showed why they’re a threat in the Eastern Conference, as they weathered multiple Knicks’ runs, including a 14-0 run in the first half, to stay within striking distance down the stretch. And despite Anthony’s wondrous shooting exhibition, and three killer turnovers in the final 90 seconds as they were closing in on the Knicks, Atlanta still had a shot at winning.
They made things interesting throughout as they had their own 14-4 run in the first half to knot the score at halftime, as well as a 7-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to tie it, 86-86, as they refused to allow the Knicks to pull away.
Their rally fell just short as Smith missed a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve given the Hawks the win.
» Anthony is now in a four-way tie for the franchise mark in 3-pointers made in a game that includes Toney Douglas, Latrell Sprewell (twice), and John Starks.
His scoring prowess has also tied Richie Guerin with 29 consecutive games with 20-plus points.
His 42-point effort places him just one game behind Kevin Durant of the Thunder for most 40-point games this season. Anthony is tied with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant with four such games.
»Jason Kidd played just five minutes, as he went to the locker room in the third quarter and didn’t return. He had been battling a lower back problem for the better part of a week, but Woodson said he thinks his aging point guard will be “fine.”
» Raymond Felton had a solid outing in just his second game back since Christmas by contributing 12 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.