Seems like the basketball gods needed a change so they benched Kevin Durant on Friday with a bum shoulder in the middle of an offensive burst of nine-straight games of 30 or more points and then reminded the basketball world of a guy that plays in New York who can light it up with the best of them.
Carmelo Anthony has been, is and always will be that dude. He gave the world an emphatic jolt of reality about the the basketball machine he is by single-handedly destroying the Bobcats. The highly-criticized baller scored a Knicks-record 62 points in a 125-96 thumping of the Charlotte Bobcats at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Melo hit 23-of-35 shots, including six treys (don’t forget another double-digit board game with 13) to notch the highest scoring game in MSG history. Son had 37 numbers at the half and finished with more scores than MJ, Dr. J or Ray J ever had in New York City. He also erased Black Mamba's Garden record of 61. It's only fitting a Knickerbocker actually hold that record anyway. So Melo got the flailing Knicks a crucial win and set some history straight as well. Bernard King previously held the team single-game record, scoring 60 points on Christmas Day in 1985. Richie Guerin had 57 in a game in 1959. Willis Reed dropped 53 in 1967 and Allan Houston matched that total during the 2003 season.
“ I was just taking it one possession at a time,” Melo said after the game. “I came into the game locked in. I didn’t know I was gonna have this type of performance...Tonight I was in one of those zones and my teammates saw that and played off that focus and energy and we all had it until the end.
Melo says the Knicks were inspired by an old motivational speech by Muhammad Ali that they viewed on video in the locker room before the game at the suggestion of a sports psychologist acquired to help the team with their mental approach.
Standing on the court with more of a look of relief that NY's five-game winning streak is over rather than adulation concerning personal accomplishments, Melo seemed humbled to be able to break one of his childhood idol's records. “Its a special moment,” Melo reflected. “I know Bernard King is somewhere smiling at me right now. It hasn’t sunk in yet."
Sports is funny like that. In the midst of a season where everyone’s standing around waiting to see how much worse it gets for the Knicks, Melo came up with a historic performance. When he hit the halfcourt bomb at the end of the first-half you saw the genuine euphoria in his teammates’ eyes. It was a brief glimpse into what this Knicks team could be.
“From the time we stepped on the court his whole demeanor was different” said guard J.R. Smith.“Today he was serious. There were a few times when I’ve seen him have that look and every time he went off.“
Melo put on a basketball clinic and as Knicks announcer Walt Clyde Frazier said, “he was perfection tonight.”
He made his first three shots -- tough ones-- right out of the gate and he got it anyway he wanted it in vintage fashion.
It will be interesting to see if fans and media piss their pants over Melo’s performance as they did during Durant’s recent hot streak. Melo’s nasty night was arguably the NBA’s best individual performance of the season. Better than his 45-point outburst against Houston earlier in the season.More spectacular and impactful than his previous three 50-point games.
In celebration of his seventh NBA all-star selection, the 6-8 baller from B-More via Red Hook came out smoking and dropped 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first quarter. You kind of had the feeling it was going to be one of those games for Melo. Like he said in the locker room after the game, “only a few players have ever been in a zone like that and tonight I was one of those players.”
Melo followed that first quarter up with a 17-point second quarter and by the time he dropped his 19th point of the third quarter, Melo was mega-trending on facebook, twitter and every other worthy social media apparatus.
In the second half the Bobcats (19-26) started throwing double teams at him, but that’s common for The Hunchback of MSG. He carries an unrivaled burden every night. The difference in this game was that cats were knocking down shots when Melo kicked it out to them. And when he didn’t kick out, the Bobcats didn't have a player on the floor who could equal his majestic scoring prowess and cornicopia of drops steps, post moves, jump shots, tear drops and runners - the ecclectic and versatile scoring repertoire of a living legend.
The shot that broke the record was like most of Melo’s shots - hardbody - spinning off two defenders and hitting a difficult leaner that played bumper cars with the rim for a bit before falling through. He could've had 70 but the Bobcats waved the white flag and Mike Woodson obliged pulling Melo with over 7:00 minutes left.
Critics will argue that Melo didn't have any assists, but if you watched the masterpiece you saw him attracting defenders and sharing the rock within the flow of the game. Besides, nobody in the basketball universe wanted to see J.R. Smith or Raymond Felton or anybody in an orange, blue and white uni touch the ball but Melo. It was one of those nights that will live forever in Knicks history and some poetic justice for a guy who has been held to higher expectations than other superstars in The League.
“I dont know about anybody ever questioning his heart and ability to play this game,“ Knicks coach Mike Woodson said in the postgame press conference on MSG. “He’s been unbelievable for this organization.”
The Knicks (16-27) can only hope this changes their fortunes or at least makes Melo think about staying put. There’s some great history waiting to be made in NY. Hate him or love him Melo always gives us something to talk about. Players gonna play and ballers are gonna ball. Melo's game said a mouthful on a legendary Friday night at The World’s Most Famous Arena.