When the Knicks finally got their hands on Carmelo Anthony almost two weeks ago and paired him with Amar’e Stoudemire, last night’s result was kind of what we all envisioned might happen in time. The dynamic duo has only been together for 8 games now, but it is clear that, quarter by quarter, game by game, the two are beginning to operate offensively on the same wavelength. The box score speaks for itself:
Amare – 12-15 FG, 31 Pts in 24:13 (WOW!)
Carmelo – 12-16 FG, 34 Pts in 30:11
When asked in the post game press conference whether now we should expect nights like this on a regular basis, Carmelo laughed at the silly question, looked down at the box score in front of him and said something to the effect of, “Ain’t gonna be too many nights that the two of us miss only 7 shots”. Damn right about that, but it was pretty damn fun to watch anyway. You can credit the awful Jazz defensive effort some for the inflated stat line, but clearly Anthony and Stoudemire are tow of the most gifted offensive talents in the NBA and are capable of combining for 65 points on any given night.
Here are a few other intriguing things that came out of Carmelo’s mouth. He talked about how he and Amar’e are beginning now to play off of each other. This revelation was apparent very early on in this beatdown, as Melo assisted on three Amar’e buckets in a 3-minute stretch of the first quarter. The best part of Carmelo’s dishing and Stoudemire’s swishing was that STAT’s buckets came from different spots on the floor. One 19 footer, one layup at right next to the rim, one short 7-footer.
To me, this showed that Melo is beginning to recognize where Amar’e is on the floor on different offensive sets and he using his ability to draw attention of more than one defender to “get” Amar’e open. In fact, Anthony said as much in his post game comments, explaining that since defender tend to gravitate toward him and not leave him to double team someone else, other guys (Stoudemire and Toney Douglas) will be open. It’s just a question or them knocking down shots, which they did early and often tonight.
Stoudemire actually took to the podium first. He basically brushed off the astounding shooting performance by the two stars and said, “Myself and Carmelo can score one-on-one with ease. Offense is not a problem for us”. It most definitely was not against a seemingly disinterested Utah squad that is obviously in shambles since Jerry Sloan stepped down and Deron Williams was dealt to New Jersey. Amar’e went on to echo some of the same sentiments as Carmelo in regards to the two of them being able to open up shots for the rest of the guys:
"“The goal is to always keep the ball moving, and always keep the defense on [its] toes. They can’t quite guard us. If we keep the ball moving like we did tonight and other players get involved and make open shots, then it’s going to be hard to guard us”"
Landry Fields put it best in the locker room when asked about his two superstar teammates, something to the effect of, “When STAT and Melo are playing like that, there’s not much anyone can do. Toney Douglas acknowledged that he knew it was up to guys like to knock down open shots when Melo and Amar’e are cooking like they were last night, because there would be opportunities aplenty.
I know it’s one game and the Knicks still have a ton of holes on defense and still struggle against squads/players with a big interior presence (case in point: Al Jefferson’s 36 pts tonight), but when was the last time this team had a laugher like this? After so many nights I sat in MSG, cringing at the poisonous atmosphere created by the Isiah’s Thomas’ reign of terror, last night was a blast. The always heady Garden fans chanting for Andy Rautins to enter the fray. Watching Stoudemire cheer lead for his boys continuing to pour it on the hapless Jazz in the final quarter. Seeing Renaldo Balkman swish a trifecta, fresh off the bench. Pure joy.
Yes this team has been enigmantic, and will likely continue to be so through the last 20 games of the regular season, but the the Knicks are relavant once again. Going to a game at Madison Square Garden is special again, and that’s the damn way it should be in this hoops town.