New York, NY—The New York Knicks (27-15) and the Atlanta Hawks (25-19) , meeting for the first time this year, engaged in a highly competitive contest that featured extremely accurate shooting from the field on Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden. Neither team was able to pull away from its opponent regardless of how large a lead was taken. The score was tied 14 times and the lead changed hands on 22 occasions.
On a 9-2 scoring run, the Hawks reached their largest advantage in the game, 25-20, late in the first quarter. The Knicks responded by scoring 16 unanswered points, their longest scoring run of the season, to achieve their largest lead of the night, 36-25, at 9:19 in the second quarter. The advantage was reversed to Atlanta’s favor, 44-43, after the Hawks scored 19 of the next 26 points. Three consecutive 3 pointers by Carmelo Anthony gave New York a 52-47 advantage late in the half. Then the Hawks netted the final five points of the first half to tie the score at 52.
With 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Anthony sunk his fifth 3 of the period to raise the Knicks’ lead to 82-74. His nine 3’s in the first three quarters tied a Knicks single game mark previously achieved by John Starks, Letrell Sprewell and Toney Douglas.
A strong performance by Atlanta early in the final period tied the score at 86 with 7:33 remaining. The score was knotted for the final time at 102 with only 1:34 on the clock. A free throw by Amar’e Stoudemire put New York ahead, 103-102. A dunk by Dominican Al Horford gave Atlanta its final advantage, 104-103. The culminating play was a successful layup by Anthony with 12.5 seconds left to play. He was also fouled by Josh Smith and netted the free throw. Smith had an open 3 with two seconds to go, which would have tied the score, but missed the shot.
Each team set a season high in field goal percentage, 60 for the Hawks and 54.2 for the Knicks. Atlanta was far more successful near the hoop as they scored 50 points in the paint to 22 for the Knicks. The Knicks, who embarrassingly netted only 4 of 27 from beyond the arc on the previous night against Philadelphia, sunk 16 of 27 on Sunday.
The hero’s mantle belonged to Anthony. The NBA MVP candidate scored 42, his fourth 40 point performance of the season. He tied Richie Guerin’s Knicks mark of scoring at least 20 points in 29 consecutive games. Teammate Tyson Chandler said of Anthony, “He’s playing unbelievably right now. It seemed every time he put it up, it was going in. He kind of put the team on his back.”
Melo was not the only contributor. Raymond Felton, in his second game back after missing 10, scored 12 and passed 10 assists. J.R.Smith and Stoudemire each scored 18 points.