It was a bittersweet evening last night for Carmelo Anthony’s homecoming to Madison Square Garden. On one hand, it was sad to see Melo in another team’s uniform after giving his prime years to the city and never truly wanting to leave. On the other hand, the Knicks seem headed in the right direction as they outplayed OKC without Porzingis to win going away and improve to three games over .500. There was a lot to celebrate last night as the team appears to have brought in to Hornacek’s system just in time to face a challenging road stretch.
B-EASY’S GREEN LIGHT: To say Beasley’s had an up and down season so far is an understatement. We’ve seen him lost on defense and out of control on offense. But tonight and in recent games, the former #2 pick has been locked in. He knows without Hardaway and KP, he’s one of the few guys on the squad that can get his own shot. He did that last night in spades by thoroughly outplaying Melo to the tune of 30 points on 11/17 shooting.
We saw post-ups on mismatches, slashing to the rim to score or draw fouls, and long-range shooting. And most importantly, we saw Beasley moving the ball and hitting guys like O’Quinn for open dunks out of double teams.
I’m surprised Beasley didn’t get an MVP chant last night.
LEE PROVIDES BACKUP: Courtney Lee was excellent tonight, tallying 20 points (3/6 from downtown) and getting to the line (7/7). He did a good job making Paul George work on offense and managed to nab two steals. When he’s aggressive and looking for his shot, it makes it much harder for teams to collapse on our main offensive weapons.
JACK CLOSES THE SHOW: Frank Ntilikina has been the closing PG in recent games, but he struggled mightily in keeping up with Russell Westbrook (25 points, 7 reb, 7 ast). So Hornacek went with Jack, who relied on veteran savvy to time Westbrook’s drives for steal opportunities. He pestered Russ and did a good job of running him into double teams and settling for mid-range jumpers. And Jack nearly had his own triple double, finishing with 12 points, 8 rebound and 7 assists.
BENCH PUTS IT AWAY: OKC was only down 5 in the fourth quarter before our bench players effectively put the game away. Doug McDermott was a man possessed early in the quarter, hitting 3 three-pointers and finishing with 13 points. Kyle O’Quinn prowled the paint on offense and defense, finishing with 9 points, 7 rebounds and a team-best +16. And let’s not forget the scrappyRon Baker, who chipped in 11 points on 3/4 shooting from downtown. But his biggest contribution was on defense, where he pestered the perimeter (2 steals).
TIRED THUNDER: Although many had their doubts about us winning with Porzingis out, OKC were on the second night of a back to back after playing a triple-overtime game in Philly. Those heavy legs became apparent in the fourth when OKC just couldn’t push the tempo. They hoped jumpers and threes would get them back in it, but when we closed those opportunities none of them had the energy left to attack the basket.
Melo looked the worst of the bunch. Outside of hitting his first two jumpers and an alley oop later, he had a horrible shooting night. Melo finished with just 12 points on 5/18 shooting. His miserable homecoming was punctuated by getting denied at the rim late in the fourth by O’Quinn. I hope our old star can get it together out there.
As for us, I’m starting to feel very confident we’re developing the chemistry to be a playoff team.