SB Nation’s Kristian Winfield gives us the low-down from inside the Knicks’ locker room following New York’s 107-103 win over the Trail Blazers.
With just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s victory, Carmelo Anthony retrieved a 50-50 ball — a defensive rebound off of a C.J. McCollum miss.
When Anthony passed the ball to Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee darted over, mid-action, and dapped him up. Moments later, with under 32 seconds remaining, he secured a key offensive rebound after a Rose missed jump shot.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek immediately called timeout, to set up a game-icing Rose jumper.
“I had to do something,” said Anthony. “My shot was shot in that fourth quarter.”
It wasn’t ‘Melo’s best shooting night.
He had shot 7-for-22 from the field. He had missed five of eight three-point attempts. And with the Knicks up two late in the fourth, he had forced up a contested mid-range jumper that Portland’s Maurice Harkless rejected, giving the Trail Blazers one last shot to tie or take the lead.
Anthony was off, to say the least.
But despite his shooting woes from the field, the Knicks’ scoring leader found other ways to contribute to his team’s seventh win in 14 games. And Lee, who has established his value as a league-wide hustle and effort player, grabbed his team captain’s ear.
“On any given night, it can be anybody else’s day, and me and Carmelo talked about that a little bit,” said Lee, who finished with five points, four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. “If your shot’s not falling, he did it in another area, and that was defensive rebounding.
“It’s not all about scoring to impact the game. You can impact the game in a lot of areas, and getting an extra possession for your team is huge.”
Anthony finished with 17 points, a steal and a block, and the Knicks returned to .500 for the first time since Oct. 29. But his six rebounds, though forgettable in amount, proved valuable in his team’s effort to hold off a resilient Trail Blazers team.
Asked if he is rubbing some of himself off on his teammates, Lee said: “I hope so. I hope so. I hope so. That’s what it’s gonna take. For how we wanna win, and we wanna win big, man, those are the plays that everyone has to make.”
And more than an hour after the final bell, as Anthony addressed reporters, it was Lee’s words of encouragement that stuck.
“It was a big gesture for him to do that. Usually, you don’t really get those compliments. You just move on with it,” Anthony said, noting Lee also “pulled me to the side and said, ‘Those were big plays’ in the locker room. “And after I was thinking like, ‘Damn, I missed so many shots,’ for him to come and to say, ‘Big rebounds, big plays,’ you need that as a team and that’s how you grow as a team.”
New York has won four of its last five games with a loss to Washington in both teams’ second game of a back-to-back. The Knicks play four more November games: vs. Charlotte, at Charlotte, vs. Oklahoma City and at Minnesota.
Hornacek says the team’s goal remains constant: to keep improving.
“We just want to get better every game,” Hornacek said. “This is a tough league... Even the bottom teams in the league can beat you on any night. You can’t take any games for granted. You’ve gotta come out there and play, and hopefully you can string five, six wins together and climb the ladder a little bit.”