NEW YORK — After giving Derek Fisher his initial coaching win their last time out, the New York Knicks delivered the first home victory for their rookie head coach at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
Fittingly, it was New York’s best player, Carmelo Anthony (game-high 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting), who scored the final three points, to lift the Knicks (2-1) to a 96-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets (1-2), on a night when Anthony joined some exclusive company among some of the greatest NBA players of all-time.
Having blown a 15-point second quarter lead, New York trailed by three points before shooting guard Iman Shumpert (15 points and four assists) was bailed out by teammate Pablo Prigioni (three points, five assists, no turnovers), prior to making a game-tying 3-pointer with 2:06 remaining.
Anthony then put the Knicks ahead for good, 95-93, with a left elbow jumper, 42 seconds later.
One game after posting more assists (30) than it had in any game last season, New York recorded eight more on 11 first-quarter field goals, while making half of its 22 shots (including four of six from 3-point range), to end the opening period with a 29-21 lead. All five Knicks starters, plus reserve guard J.R. Smith (seven points), had an assist in the quarter for a team trying to quickly grasp the triangle offense of new team president Phil Jackson, as taught by Fisher.
Charlotte, playing most of the game without starting forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (after he took a hard fall late in the first quarter), wasn’t interested in guarding New York on the perimeter early on, as the Knicks took full advantage with point guard Shane Larkin (nine points, five assists and one turnover), Shumpert (15 points and four assists) and Anthony making 3s on consecutive trips to put New York up, 15-5.
Anthony’s trey gave him five points and 20,002 for his career, making him (at 30 years and 157 days old), the sixth-youngest player (behind LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson) to reach the 20,000-point plateau.
“It’s a humbling experience for me,” Anthony said. “I never thought that I would be sitting here talking about me scoring 20,000 points. I used to look at when I played with [Allen Iverson] back in Denver and [I would] see his stats, and [say], ‘Man, you got 20-something thousand points.’ But I never thought I would be here actually talking about me reaching that milestone. So I’m definitely humbled by this experience and I’ve got a lot more to go.”
While he’s now one of the youngest in NBA history to score 20,000 points, Anthony is the 15th fastest (793 games) and 40th player in the league to reach that mark. He trails Memphis’ Vince Carter by 3,153 points for seventh place among active all-time scoring leaders.
Anthony’s milestone came the season after he posted a current Garden record 62 points in a win over Charlotte (then, as the Bobcats). He finished the first quarter with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, but Shumpert led all scorers with nine points, on 3-of-6 shooting, while playing a little over five minutes in the period.
A Smith jumper doubled up the Hornets, 24-12, with 3:49 left in the stanza, but the Hornets cut that lead in half, at 29-23, on a pair of free throws by reserve guard Gary Neal (17 points), eleven seconds into the second quarter.
The Knicks responded with a 14-5 run, to push their advantage to 43-28, but Charlotte closed the half on a 22-9 surge to pull within 52-50 by halftime, and took its first lead, 55-54, on a free throw by center Al Jefferson (team-high 21 points, game-high eight rebounds), 1:27 into the second half.
New York answered with six straight points (the first four, by Anthony) to lead, 64-61, but going on the attack in the third quarter, the Hornets scored 14 points in the paint and took 17 free throw attempts (making 11) — while the Knicks only attempted (and made) two — to regain an 80-79 lead heading into the final period.
Charlotte’s push was spearheaded by their all-New York backcourt and Jefferson, as that trio accounted for all but two points during Charlotte’s 30-point third quarter. Shooting guard Lance Stephenson (14 points, nine rebounds, eight assists), a Brooklyn native, scored a dozen points in the period (after having just two in the first half), Jefferson had nine and point guard Kemba Walker (16 points), from the Bronx, added seven.
Keeping New York in the game, reserve forward Amar’e Stoudemire made each of his four third-quarter field goal attempts and scored 10 of his 17 points while grabbing four of his 10 rebounds.
In the fourth period, Jefferson and Stephenson were held scoreless and Walker only had two points, as Charlotte was limited to just 13 points on 40 percent (6-for-15) shooting in the frame, while the Knicks’ defensive intensity forced seven Hornets turnovers in the quarter.
“[We] decided in the fourth quarter [we] weren’t having it no more,” Shumpert said of his team’s stifling fourth-quarter defense.
New York only managed 17 points itself in the period, but nine came from Anthony on 4-of-8 shooting.
His first two baskets of the quarter, each on short turnaround jumpers, erased a four-point hole and moved the Knicks ahead, 87-86, with 6:48 left.
Almost three minutes later, off of a spin at the right elbow, Anthony made a nice drive past Stephenson, to finish with the right hand and force a Charlotte timeout with New York up, 90-89.
But Neal and Walker answered with buckets in the lane, to give the Hornets a 93-90 lead, with 2:49 to go.
Anthony missed a jumper on the Knicks’ next possession, but Stephenson traveled at the other end.
Shumpert was then caught badly in midair on the left wing, but an alert Prigioni moved from the right elbow to the middle of the foul line to catch Shumpert’s desperation pass.
Immediately pressured, Prigioni kicked the ball back out to Shumpert, who drained a clutch, left-wing 3-pointer, to wipe out Charlotte’s final lead of the night.
Recalling the situation, a laughing Shumpert was thankful to receive some assistance in making something big out of a broken play.
“It was real broken, I almost turned it over,” he said. “Pablo saved the day. Somehow the ball came back to me and I figured it’s a sign to do the right thing with it [the second] time. Luckily, I was able to get him that assist.”
Moments later, a forced pass by Stephenson from under basket was stolen by Shumpert, but one possession later, Anthony was short on a contested, fall-away baseline jumper, with the shot clock winding down.
Following a time out, the Hornets were whistled for a five-second violation on a count that appeared to be no more than four to 4½ seconds, at most. Charlotte argued the call but to no avail.
Given one last chance to tie after Shumpert missed a long jumper, the Hornets were unable to convert as Walker was forced to dribble through traffic, and after a head fake from the left elbow, he missed despite getting a clear look at the hoop. Anthony pulled down his second rebound with 1.9 seconds left and was fouled with just 0.8 seconds remaining. He made the second of two free throws, but Charlotte could not get off a final shot.
Trying to extend their winning streak to three games, the Knicks will next host the Washington Wizards (2-1) on Tuesday night before going on a three-game road trip and returning for a season-long, four-game homestand.