Perhaps the best thing that happened Tuesday night for the Knicks was Carmelo Anthony had an off night. But, how does this make any sense? Simple. It forced him — and the Knicks — to discover that they don’t have to rely solely on one player to close out a game.
Jeff Hornacek called a timeout with 25.7 seconds left after Anthony tipped back an offensive rebound to maintain a critical possession as the Knicks were clinging on to a two-point lead. Hornacek drew up a play and for the first time in six years, it wasn’t a final shot for Melo.
Derrick Rose, the former MVP who is showing there is still a lot of game left in his legs, rattled home the step-back jumper with 6.8 seconds left to seal the win and move the Knicks back to the elusive .500 mark at 7-7.
Wally Szczerbiak, who filled in for Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier on the broadcast, called it “a character-building win.” It was also the fifth straight win at The Garden, which rocked with chants of “DEE-FENSE!” down the stretch in an entertaining game. The Knicks defense held Portland to 0-for-6 shooting with a turnover and just two points in the final two minutes of the game.
“Great things,” Rose said of this Knicks team, “are coming.”
Kristaps Porzingis had his second 30-point game in a week, with 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting. Melo finished with 17 (7-for-22), but managed to come up with some important hustle plays — that offensive rebound, for one — to have an impact. Mindaugas Kuzminskas played a season-high 21 minutes and calmly hit a huge three-pointer late in the game off terrific ball-movement.
Brandon Jennings was a catalyst once again off the bench with a team-high 11 assists. That makes 31 assists for Jennings over the last four games, which is an average of 7.8 per game in 22.8 minutes. You haven’t seen that kind of production off the bench since Mark Jackson in the 1990-91 season.
After the Thanksgiving break, the Knicks face a tough home-and-home, back-to-back with speedy Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets (8-5).
We’ll have the coverage with Knicks Game Night on Friday starting at 7 PM.