It wasn’t a good basketball game from the New York Knicks, but you have to know how to win these as well. Especially the bad ones, and you need a special player for that. Carmelo Anthony has been there at every turn so far this season, stepping up whenever he was needed to carry the game, on his back, to victory.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, without Kevin Love, in New York? Should have been easy. But no. The Wolves have a very good coach, with a smart game plan, and a very good defense that’s probably even better when Kevin Love isn’t playing, and Andrei Kirilenko at the basis of it all. For three quarters it worked perfect, and Minnesota, despite the struggling Ricky Rubio, had a lead early in the fourth.
But then Carmelo Anthony woke up. He finished the game with 33 points, shooting a pretty bad 10-25 from the field and 3-10 from beyond the arc. It didn’t matter, because he got hot at the right time. He was 5-7 from the field and was clutch as always from the line when the Wolves sent him there. He simply became a lot more aggressive on offense, while the Timberwolves defense reacted too much to any penetration and enabled opened shots from the outside.
But recent games have raised the question regarding Anthony and his importance to team. Maybe the Knicks’ turnaround this season and impressive start of 20-7 is too much about Anthony’s scoring skills? As long as the wins are coming, there’s nothing wrong with it. He’s missed four games so far this season, and the Knicks are 2-2 without him. Too small of a sample size, but without Anthony on the floor in the closing minutes, it’s hard to see who the Knicks could have turned to.
J.R. Smith is as unreliable as they get, despite his good performance against Minnesota. He finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. Still, despite his maturation process this season which has led to better decision making, he still is very close to having one of those games where he doesn’t look left or right and simply shoots himself into oblivion.
When a starter, Ronnie Brewer, gives you 0 points, you know you’ve done something wrong. The problem is that the bench didn’t have the right kind of answer for him. The Timberwolves, and other good defensive teams, have the kind of defense that can react well to the Knicks’ ball movement, which was overwhelming to anyone who met them in the first few weeks of the season. Jason Kidd looks a lot less useful then, and Steve Novak, back from his injury, can’t do anything without getting set up with open shots. He finished with 4 points, taking only three field goal attempts in his 19 minutes. His presence on the floor as a decoy alone isn’t enough.
The Knicks are a good team, maybe even very good. A third of the way into the NBA season, a fake-start would have been countered by now by their real faces. But sometimes it feels that they need more than just Carmelo Anthony and his heroics. Thinking a bit further ahead, better defenses in a series of games might make them look a tad limited, which will make it another early end in the postseason, unless something changes, or Amare makes a triumphant return.