Al Trautwig turned to me at the start of the postgame show and asked, “What did we learn from this game?”
The answer came easy: Carmelo Anthony is a more effective player at both ends of the floor, at this point of his career, at the power forward spot.
Of course, that also depends on the matchups each night.
With Kristaps Porzingis out of the lineup to rest a chronic Achilles issue, Melo slid down to the four spot and Lance Thomas started at the three. Thomas provided another defensive-minded presence, along with Courtney Lee, and Melo was able to work against the likes of Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.
Melo, whose numbers show he usually struggles in the second game of a back-to-back, had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists with a +22 in 33 minutes.
It should be noted that the Bulls were without stretch-4 Nikola Mirotic and also their best player, Jimmy Butler, who were out with the flu. Chicago has been riddled by illness lately.
Regardless of the asterisks anyone wants to put on this result, the Knicks needed this win. They had lost nine of 10 coming into the game and that included two crushing buzzer-beaters.
Derrick Rose had 17 points and is shooting 58% from the field in the two games since his one-game absence for what he called a family situation. He keeps saying he wants everyone to put that issue in the past and the one way to get anyone to do that is to continue to play at a high level.
Here’s the question as we go forward: if Melo at this point of his career is better suited to play the power forward spot — as we pointed out a few games ago — then perhaps he should stay there with Joakim Noah next to him as a rebounder and rim protector, and two defenders (Lee and Thomas) on the floor to help as well.
Let the starting lineup play a slower pace and in half court sets that seem to fit the older personnel they have. And while Porzingis is dealing with this Achilles issue — and some mid-season fatigue — you can control his minutes by bringing him off the bench.
Porzingis can thrive with a faster second unit and a point guard in Brandon Jennings, who seems to look for him more than those in the first unit do.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas had his best game with 19 points off the bench. Kyle O’Quinn has been terrific. There is a lot of potential on that bench, but the chemistry hasn’t been there because the rotations have been inconsistent. Perhaps bringing KP off the bench would solve those issues?
Now it has to be pointed out that Porzingis has been playing with the bench in second quarters. That has been his best scoring quarter over the last month of games, but as we have recently pointed out, the team has struggled in those quarters.
But will his mindset change if he comes in off the bench as the first option with a full battery?
Hey, when you’ve had a tailspin like the Knicks have had, you have to consider and try everything.
First things first: the Knicks have to get KP healthy. Jeff Hornacek said he may hold him out of practice on Saturday and see how he feels Sunday before the team takes the court against the Raptors in Toronto.
We will have the pregame coverage on Knicks Game Day on MSG at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.