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Through the boos and struggles to the defend the three-point line, the Knicks persevered behind a surprise fourth-quarter barrage of playmaking from Courtney Lee and a clutch jumper from Carmelo Anthony to take a much-needed 110-107 win at Madison Square Garden.
KP’s HOT START: It finally looks like Porzingis’ shooting drought may come to an end. He had 10 points in the first quarter and two thunderous dunks in the second quarter. Things came off the wheels a bit in the third in that he didn’t score and got in foul trouble trying to contest the penetration of Kemba Walker and other guards. Unfortunately, it looks like until the Knicks get guards that can stay in front of their man, KP will be in chronic foul trouble.
He finished with 18 points (8/11), including a timely jumper to make it 107-101 in the final minute before fouling out. The 3 blocks were a huge plus as well. It’s broken record at this point, but the coaches and players need to find a way to keep KP involved on offense throughout the game.
O’QUINN BOUNCES BACK: We’ve been lauding the potential of Willy Hernangomez so much we’ve overlooked how effective Kyle O’Quinn can be. He reminded us with a strong game: 10 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks. A few of those blocks came in crunch time when he swatted a Walker layup attempt and a three-pointer. The man even hit his first three of the season. No complaints.
JENNINGS STEPS UP: With Rose leaving the game with a sprained ankle in the third, it was on Brandon Jennings to step up. He did with marvelous 31-minute performance. We needed his scoring and he delivered with 15 points on 6/11 shooting, including a corner trey that put New York up 105-101 with less than 2 minutes remaining. When BJ is attacking the rim, you can’t ask for much better.
MELO SHUTS UP THE CROWD: It was sad to watch Melo getting booed on every touch. He was having a miserable shooting night (18 points, 8/26, 11 boards), and the crowd was letting him have it. Nevermind he was getting dumped the ball with 5-7 seconds on the shot clock and everyone standing around. The weeks of being made the media scapegoat for all the Knicks’s problems have created this atmosphere. Nonetheless, he still showed why he remains our best closer by hitting a driving baseline jumper on the final Knicks play. The shot came as O’Quinn was fouled underneath the basket, creating a three-point play to make 110-105 with 13 seconds left.
Lord knows I have my issues with Melo’s game, but the constant booing was ridiculous.
BUILD AROUND COURTNEY LEE!: Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but Lee’s fourth-quarter heroics show why we need him to be more aggressive on offense. With Melo unable to bail us out late in the shot clock, the Knicks desperately needed someone to make a play. Lee provided that, scoring nine straight points including a go-ahead three-pointer with 1:39 left. He did it on an array of shots: a mid-range jumper, contested layups and a three.
The most important play from Lee came off a steal and fast-break where he dished to an open Jennings for a corner three-pointer.
I think our sense of urgency is picking up and we realize that we can’t keep saying it’s early in the season. We’re four or five games out of the playoffs, I think we realize now that time is running out.
With Lee’s talent there’s no reason he can’t be a consistent 13-16 point scorer. Let’s hope he keeps this desperation mentality for the rest of the season.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE DEFENSE MAKES: The Hornets were having their way through three quarters, particularly from the three-point line. Of their 13 treys, five of them came from Marvin Williams, who was repeatedly left open. Rose couldn’t stay in front of Walker, who dropped 31 points. It wasn’t until the fourth when the Knicks clamped down to hold Charlotte to six minutes without scoring. New York finished the game on a 17-5 run to cap the comeback.