Rumors of Carmelo Anthony's demise were greatly exaggerated. Rumors of his team's demise, on the other hand, look to be right on target as the Knicks dropped their seventh consecutive game, 102-100, to the Utah Jazz.
Melo set a new NBA season high with 46 points. He got to the free-throw line 16 times on the night -- a total the entire Knicks team failed to reach in four of their first nine games. And when the Knicks were down three points, in need of a miracle, he delivered:
It was all for naught, however, as Trey Burke -- he of the 30.7 shooting percentage coming into Friday night -- sank a buzzer-beating jumper over the outstretched arms of J.R. Smith:
We feel your pain, Earl.
The Knicks started off the game without the services of Amar'e Stoudemire and his 10.9 points per game due to a medically-mandated rest day. That offensive handicap grew even more pronounced one minute into the first quarter, as Iman Shumpert injured his hip driving to the rim on a kick-out for a Jason Smith mid-range jumper. The moral: Mid-range jumpers are the devil.
New York quickly fell behind by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, forcing Derek Fisher to ditch most of his starters. The Knicks were able to get back into the game in the second quarter as Melo started to cook. J.R. replaced Shump in every conceivable way, putting together a vintage Shump half with seven points, two steals and three momentum-killing fouls. Fisher was forced to sit him in the second, and again in the third when he picked up his fourth foul. He was never really the same after that.
Melo kept the Knicks in the game in the third quarter with 13 points, but it was clear he needed some help if his team was going to pull out the win.
Enter Pablo Prigioni. The Argentine point gawd downed a liter of super soldier serum in the fourth, knocking down jumpers, hitting two layups (probably his NBA high), sneaking like a fiend and fouling with gusto. He hulked out the way only Pablo can:
Pablo briefly carried the Knicks to a five-point lead before the Jazz went on an 11-0 run to pull ahead. Melo bulldozed his way to the rim time after time, willing his team toward victory. This well beyond hero-ball; this was titan-ball.
But the Knicks have no need for titans this season. They're a crappy team, and for once their crappiness isn't necessarily for naught. To Tankathon and beyond!
- Shane Larkin continues to intrigue on defense (three steals), and continues to look like an off-guard who can't finish at the rim on offense (two blown layups, one of which led indirectly to the Shumpert injury). Will his size forever limit his ability to hit layups? I'm certain I've seen short guys make layups before. Find those short guys, Shane, and learn their secrets!
- For what it's worth, Jazz writer Andy Bailey actually prefers Larkin to Burke, while acknowledging both players' limitations:
If I had to choose one, it'd be Larkin. RT @ChinaJoeFlynn Trey Burke is a good matchup for Shane Larkin— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) November 15, 2014
@ChinaJoeFlynn So much more athletic. I trust his shot more too. Both probably peak as backups, though.— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) November 15, 2014
And then Burke went on to nail the game-winner because Knicks.
- The bloom has come off the Jason Smith mid-range rose (2-8, including one fadeaway jumper that will haunt my nightmares). He did have a few good defensive possessions down the stretch, but this dude shouldn't be playing center.
- Samuel Dalembert should play center...at least on occasion. But man does this cat do some weird things on offense. As an amateur psychologist I have diagnosed him with Hakeem Displacement Disorder (HDD) -- a condition whereby he believes himself to be Hakeem Olajuwon.
- Travis Wear had his best game since the "LeBron stopper" incident -- six points (3-5 shooting), four rebounds and an assist. He played big fourth-quarter minutes, because why the hell not?
- The Knicks shot eight three-pointers. Eight! They finally got to the free-throw line, thanks to Melo, and they did hit five of those eight threes, but this offense makes no goddamn sense right now.
- Pablo had a three taken away by the refs, who believed he stepped on the line. They later went to the replay, which showed he was clearly past said line, yet they refused to reverse the call. Would it have affected the outcome of this game? Impossible to say. Still, nobody does that to Pablo!!!
- Fisher started the fourth with a lineup of Larkin, Pablo, Cleanthony Early, Travis Wear and Jason Smith. And you know what? I didn't hate it. That's how screwed up the Knicks are right now. I would have preferred less Acy and Smith at center, but otherwise he mostly kept his bigs on a tight leash with Stoudemire unavailable, giving Melo ample time at the 4 in the second half. The two-PG, Larkin and Prigs lineups made an odd bit of sense, despite the size disadvantage -- on a team where nobody defends, you might as well back the court with sneaky little thieves.
The Knicks will finish up their homestand from hell with a Saturday matinee against the Denver Nuggets. Given their history in early games, that probably won't end well either. Like alleyhoop_20 said, they might not win until they come back to the Garden -- Nov. 22 against the Sixers. Getcha popcorn ready!