The Knicks were finally proactive a six-game losing streak with the first home morning shoot-around yesterday. It looked to have paid off, as they finally held off a contender in the Orlando Magic, 113-106 in overtime.
It was a gritty and determined victory that the Knicks [36-38] had rarely displayed during its malaise, as they crashed the boards, played staunch defense in the post, and actually hung with the Magic [47-27] in the paint.
The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony’s 39 points and 10 rebounds, including six in the first half, while Amar’e Stoudemire chipped in with 20 points. Anthony, who knocked down a multitude of big shots in the fourth quarter, also played some rare inspired play on the defensive end of the floor. Anthony, not known for his defensive efforts, had his hands all over any sloppy passes in the passing lanes and forced Hedo Turkoglu into tough shots from the perimeter.
Anthony actually missed a game-winning shot in the final seconds of regulation after the Knicks blew a six-point lead, but they held Orlando to 18 points in the first quarter and 33 percent shooting [14 percent from 3]. Orlando got 29 and 18 from Dwight Howard but certainly missed the leadership and game of star point guard Jameer Nelson, who was out with a sprained left knee. Nelson, a usual Knick tormentor, was replaced in the lineup by Gilbert Arenas, who had a woeful game. The former All-Star didn’t look like the old Arenas but rather an old Arenas, as he went just 2 of 11 with five turnovers.
“Carmelo helped, he was on fire out there,” Stoudemire said. “They had no answer for him, and then we played great defensively, we got after it, chasing down loose balls, really, really showing the effort to want to win and it showed tonight.”
None of the backup point guards picked up the slack much, as Knick defenders harassed them into subpar games as well. Things were so bad for Magic ball handlers that the 6-foot-10 Turkoglu ran the point most of the game. Turkoglu finished with 18 points.
The Knicks’ supporting cast struggled as well but it was the intangibles they brought that helped support Stoudemire and Anthony. Chauncey Billups had 17 points and six assists, while Bill Walker knocked down [two triples. Shawne Williams only chipped in eight points, but he and Shelden Williams made Howard work hard on the blocks with tough defense and a will to not defer to the All-Star. They held Howard without a field goal in the first half and didn’t record his first two-point bucket until the 10:24 mark of the third quarter. Howard once again had a dominant second half against New York but it was an aggressive team defense that helped slow down the others.
The Knicks finally showed its mettle in the fourth quarter as Anthony led the way with clutch shots, while Stoudemire made Howard work in the post, including a key strip in the final two minutes. Anthony also found Douglas with a sweet pass for a layup to give the Knicks a 100-97 lead with 10 seconds remaining. It was the first time that the Knicks rose to the occasion in the final stanza and also showed why team president Donnie Walsh gave up so much for Melo in the first place.