Harris DeckerCarmelo Anthony followed up his 62 point performance against the Charlotte Bobcats by scoring a mere 35 points against the Lakers on Sunday. The Knicks won and are now riding a winning streak into their matchup against the Celtics on Tuesday. For the Knicks, the magic has come from playing as a team and that starts with Anthony.
In order to win, the Knicks have to play a specific brand of basketball. Without consistent production from the supporting cast, the entire show must run through Anthony. What’s ironic is that as Anthony begins to play better, taking more shots, so does the rest of the team. On Friday night, Anthony did it all himself. He was the main attraction and at times, it seemed as if he could have won that game by himself.
Against the Lakers on Sunday, it was a different story. Anthony was great, shooting 45% from the field on his way to 35 points and 5 assists. On days that Anthony scores 60+, he might not need much help from guys like J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton and Tim Hardaway Jr., but Sunday, his play allowed that trio to thrive. He drew the double teams and then made the outlet passes at the perfect time. Although he only racked up five assists, he passed to assists a number of times, creating perfect around the horns to the open shooter.
Quite a few times, that open shooter was Hardaway Jr., who was 4-for-5 from behind the arc. This was the most points he’s scored in a game since Christmas Day against the Thunder, when he scored 21. The open shots are easy to see in the box score. Hardaway Jr. shot 58%, a result of the open looks he was getting. Smith and Felton also had great games, scoring 16 and 20 points respectively. Smith added six rebounds and Felton broke down defenses and helped get guys open.
If Anthony is the key to getting guys open, Felton is the second in command. He’s the only player on the roster that’s shown a consistent ability to breakdown defenses on his own. Smith, Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert all struggle to create for themselves but Felton can do it over and over. He showed that on Sunday and will have to keep it up in order to keep the streak alive. Anthony and Felton now hold the key to saving a very bleak Knicks season.