MINNEAPOLIS – For 47 minutes and 48 seconds of this game, Carmelo Anthony was mostly miserable or invisible. Then he became the hero.
Anthony drained the game-winning jumper with 2.3 seconds remaining and intercepted Minnesota’s ensuing inbounds pass as New York defeated the T-Wolves, 106-104, preventing what would have been a collapse that fell on Melo’s shoulders.
The All-Star had been background noise Wednesday night to an entertaining back-and-forth between Karl Anthony-Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, a showdown that produced an outrageous stat line for Towns – 47 points and 18 rebounds on 15-for-22 shooting.
But down the stretch and the Knicks clinging to a small lead, Anthony turned aggressive to New York’s detriment — he airballed his first shot attempt of the fourth quarter, missed his next one, and flubbed a defensive rebound that led to Minnesota’s game-tying 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining.
Then Porzingis and Towns traded points, and Hornacek drew up the final play for Anthony in a tie game.
He jab stepped in one-on-one coverage, elevated over defender Andrew Wiggins, and converted his only field goal of the fourth quarter.
Carmelo Anthony struggles all game but comes through when it counts.
“You saw (why I called the play for Anthony). He made the shot at the end,” said Hornacek, whose team (9-9) snapped a four-game road losing streak. “Just the confidence in Carmelo being a 10-time All-Star. That’s what those guys do.
“This may happen with Melo making a big shot for us. I think I was in Utah (as a player) and John Stockton hit about seven or eight for us in one year. Some years, the nail every one of them. So hopefully that’s the case.”
It was Anthony’s second game-winning shot in four games, and it arrived after the Knicks blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter – mostly after Anthony was re-inserted into the lineup.
Even Towns was impressed.
“That’s why he’s one of the NBA’s best-ever pure scorers,” Towns said. “He proved it in the last second. Even when he was struggling all game, he found a way to make the shot.”
Karl-Anthony Towns dominates the Knicks, finishing with a career-high 47 points and 18 rebounds.
(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)
Porzingis, meanwhile, continued his ascension with 29 points in 39 minutes. He and Towns are unquestionably the top players of the 2015 draft class, finishing 1-2 in the Rookie of the Year voting. They also became close friends during the draft process, and set the stage for Friday’s immediate rematch at the Garden.
“I think it was a good show for everybody, but what’s important is we got the win at the end,” Porzingis said.
Added Hornacek, “Those are going to be two great players in this league for a long, long time.”
Anthony, facing criticism for taking ill-advised shots and stalling the offense, started the game as a decoy. He didn’t take a shot for the first 10 minutes, and attempted just five in the first half. On multiple possessions, Anthony stood in corner as a spectator to Porzingis and others.
He said it was strategy, but declined to divulge the reasons.
Kristaps Porzingis leads Knicks with 29 points.
“I like to play games sometimes. It was one of those nights where I wanted to see what was going to happen early in the game and just feel the flow out,” said Anthony, who has shot just 16-for-60 in his last three games (26 percent). “We came out and got out to a good start. I felt comfortable not taking a shot in the first quarter.”
If not for Anthony’s shot and steal, Wednesday would’ve been remembered as Towns’ redemption game. Two days prior following the T-Wolves’ defeat, the second-year stud spoke candidly about his struggles while shouldering the blame for Minnesota’s disappointing performances – “My shoulders are big enough and strong enough to hold this pressure,” he said.
Then the reigning Rookie of the Year scored 26 points in the first half – the most of his career for either half — while hitting his first 10 field goals. Towns’ first miss didn’t occur until 30 seconds left in the second quarter, when he got cocky and tried to dunk on Porzingis. The attempt was partially blocked by the 7-foot-3 Knicks forward, and the rest was blocked by the rim.
“What did he have, like 103 points?” Hornacek said. “Seemed like a lot. Forty-seven is a lot.”
The Knicks improved to 3-0 without Joakim Noah, who missed the game with a sprained ankle. Kyle O’Quinn started in his place and New York got a boost from reserves Mindaugas Kuzminskas (14 points) and Brandon Jennings (12 points). Starting shooting guard Courtney Lee was also removed in the first quarter because of a sprained ankle and did not return. X-Rays were negative and he wasn’t sure about playing Friday’s game against the T-Wolves.
If Lee – who was also dealing with a sprained wrist – misses time, the Knicks are suddenly very slim at the wing position with just Justin Holiday and Sasha Vujacic. But Lance Thomas, who has been out since Nov. 14 with a bone bruise in his ankle, completed an encouraging workout Wednesday morning and could return within the next two games.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News