NYC, New York- Questionable was the status of Carmelo Anthony prior to the Knicks 100-86 victory over the visiting Brooklyn Nets, but there was little to doubt about No.7′s return as the Knicks’ forward scored a game-high 31 points in his return to the New York lineup.
After having missed the last two games with a sprained left ankle, Anthony was a torrent of offense for the Knicks, employing a range of jumpers, 3-pointers and aggressive moves to the basket to help the Knicks take a 2-1 season series lead against their Atlantic Division Rival.
“I wasn’t too sure until I went out there,” explained Anthony on his decision to play, adding, “There were certain things I did early in the game that I didn’t think I could do. I told myself to get through and play.”
“I knew he was [going to play],” said Knicks’ center Tyson Chandler. “He had the game-day excitement…a little more bounce in his step.”A close game through much of the first three quarters was changed when the Knicks mastered the pick and roll, the alley-oop in particular, as Chandler [16 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks] was the recipient of several lofty passes off the hands of guard Raymond Felton [eight points, four assists] that got New York easy points and a double-digit lead they were able to keep.
Chandler’s most evocative dunk came late in the third quarter, moments after a huge block by J.R. Smith against Nets’ center Brook Lopez, as Chandler took the feed from Felton for a backwards two-handed jam that concluded with the customary chest-beating that has become somewhat of a Chandler trademark.
“We got off to a pretty good start in the third quarter, but they kind of denied us in our offense,” remarked Nets’ head coach Avery Johnson. “[We] got deflections, we turned the ball over, but more than anything we missed too many shots in the paint…and that put us on our heels.”
The defense that seemed to have vanished for the Knicks in their last five games [in which their opponents scoring went up by more than nine points per game] had reappeared and was key to the team’s success. “We were back on track in terms of our switches which were right on the money,” said Knicks’ head coach Mike Woodson. “Our pick-and-roll defense was solid. We got key stops and were able to get the ball out and run.”The Knicks who led 75-67 after three quarters, are now 15-0 when leading heading into the final quarter.
As Anthony dominated the perimeter going 12-of-22 from the field, including four 3-pointers, it was Smith who was the difference maker off the bench, as the feisty guard played a controlled game, taking quality shots to finish with 19 points and five rebounds.
An epitome of Smith’s performance, and similarly of the discomfort he caused the Nets occurred in the first quarter when Smith got tangled up with Brooklyn’s Kris Humphries, their arms intertwined, with a jump ball being called by the officials for Smith’s hustle. Shocked and dismayed at the call, Humphries vigorously protested, and was called for a technical foul.
Publicly expressing his concerns over the Nets’ offense before the game, Nets’ guard Deron Williams did not seem lost until the fourth quarter collapse, and finished the contest with 16 points and 10 assists.
Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson scored a team-high 17 points, with only four of them coming in the second half.
“We are frustrated,” said Williams on his team’s recent play in which the Nets have lost eight of their last 10 games including two losses to the Knicks. “We have to change some things. We have to get better. It is on us as players. We have to come out with more energy and more focus.”