In 1995 — on the same Garden floor that Carmelo Anthony had his signature game as leader of the New York Knicks on Tuesday — Reggie Miller scored an unfathomable eight points in 18.7 seconds to lift Indiana to a stunning win in Game 1 of the Knicks-Pacers playoff series.
There would be no repeat of Indiana magic in Game 2 of this series. 'Melo made sure that he stepped up to the challenge at a moment when failure would offer no explanation and Knicks fans would have shown no mercy. The airwaves and social networks were littered with anti-'Melo and anti-Knicks sentiment following their Game 1 loss. Talking heads like ESPN’s Colin Cowherd have led a personal assault against the credibility and value of 'Melo as a basketball player.
It was getting bad, but the response was simple mathematics. He was going to turn it up or face incredible backlash from his growing bastion of haters.
The MSG crowd and Knicks fans in every bar, barbershop and building with big screens, have been getting increasingly restless with the Knicks’ inability to close-out opponents.
Something had to give.
Indiana had a two-point lead and momentum, when coach Frank Vogel called timeout with a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter.
Then, the human basketball bugatti from B-More via Brooklyn not only showed his a$$, like an ATL stripper working triple shifts in the champagne room, but by the time he sat down to rest his battered body and bruised shoulder, he had led the Knicks on a 30-2 run, gaining unquestionable control of the game. 'Melo got his usual 32 numbers on a ton of shooting, but a transformation occurred during that run that can’t be denied.
'Melo dismantled the Pacer’s D with an array of power dunks, treys, drives, and grit. The determination was classic. And the way he responded to the urgency of the moment has to at least calm Knicks fans’ nerves a bit and reassure them that the frog they saw wearing No. 7 in Game 1 was really a prince, after all. New Yorkers respect effort, even in failure. 'Melo has given that effort — regardless of the result — all season. He’s fought injuries, unrelenting criticism, and truth be told, the large majority of basketball fans had him counted out because of his porous shooting of late.
'Melo was becoming the NBA’s new “whipping boy.” There’s a cat over in Miami who used to get called out for “not being clutch and a champion,” but he shut his critics down.
'Melo’s taken the first step to similar redemption.
The pressure, on players of his stature, to produce is heavy, and public perception ignores basketball for the team sport that it truly is. If the Knicks backcourt didn’t keep them afloat in the first half of Game 2, 'Melo’s first epic chapter of his young Knicks career may never have been written.
In the moment of truth, 'Melo did his part. That’s all one player can really do. 'Melo respects the “anointed ones” in the league like the next man. But if you ask him, he believes he’s as nasty as any of those guys. One thing’s for sure: You can’t say he ain’t got what it takes. However, before 'Melo gets the type of respect he’s looking for, you know his next task: Do it again.