With 11 seconds to play, Carmelo Anthony hit a dramatic three point shot to lead the New York Knicks past the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia 97-92. The clutch three point shot came after the Knicks dominated for the first three quarters, leading by as much as 19 points, but almost lost the game to the 76ers in the final three minutes.
The win pushes the Knicks past the 76ers, into 6th place in the playoff race with five games to go. It was the Knicks fifth win in a row after losing 9 of their last 10.
Chauncey Billups, the Knicks starting point guard was injured in the third quarter, when he collided with a 76er player and fell to the floor, laying motionless. Though he continued play, Billups left the game a few minutes later, and did not return.
As the fourth quarter wore on, the Knicks leading by 13 at the start of the quarter, began playing a slowed down, "hold the ball" type game, and seemed lost without Billups. Although the team only committed three turnovers all game, the 76ers were able to mount a furious comeback with Thaddeus Young coming off the bench to score 15 of his 25 points in the final quarter. Philadelphia took the lead 88-87 with 2:46 left as a result of multiple fast break opportunities, and a near total collapse of the Knicks.
It was then that the second team point guard for the Knicks, Toney Douglas stepped up and hit a three point shot to put the visiting team up 90-88. On the other end of the floor, the Knicks Rony Turiaf made a key defensive play, blocking a shot by 76er Jrue Holiday.. Douglas sank two free throws with 42 seconds left to give the Knicks a four point lead, followed by the 76ers Andre Igoudala firing back with a three pointer of his own to bring the 76ers within one, finally ending with Anthony's winning three point shot with 11.8 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Amare Stoudemire sprained his left ankle during the fourth quarter, and after the game, said his left ankle is "pretty sore" and "we'll see how I feel tomorrow". When asked about the game, Stoudemire explained, "Once we get a lead we need to maintain it... we can't afford to get down and let them get back into it."
Meanwhile, a relieved Chauncey Billups said that his leg did not "harden up" as the left leg did after the Magic game, leading to 10 games where he was unable to play, and that he will probably be fine. When asked about Toney Douglas' leadership in his absence, the veteran point guard Billups said "he's going to have to learn to close the game out, make good decisions". He explained that his protege Douglas played well but that he would have a talk with him about the mental aspects of his play.
After Billups left the game, the Knicks suffered multiple shot clock violations. All the ball movement exhibited in the first three quarters disappeared, and at times, the Knicks passed the ball back and forth near mid-court, past the three point line. Penetration and movement were non-existent, and in spite of the lack of turnovers, the Knicks suddenly regressed back to the team that went through a 9 of 10 losing streak.
But when the game was being closed out, Billups's replacement, Toney Douglas did the closing, hitting that clutch three pointer and two important free throws when the Knicks desperately needed someone to score. The shot by Carmelo won the game, but Douglas was just as important in the final moments.
After Billups left the game, Douglas did not seem to take charge of the team. At times, he let other players bring the ball upcourt and when he did handle the ball, he excessively dribbled, and is responsible for the team suffering multiple shot clock violations. He must become better at running the team., or Anthony Carter should be inserted ito the point guard slot with Douglas as the SG.
This was an important win, mostly because the Knicks proved to themselves that they could handle adversity, fall apart, and put themselves back together again in a matter of moments. It bodes well for the playoffs, as long as the injuries prove to be minor. Mentally, they can gain strength and confidence from this game, and be able to call upon this memory in tough times ahead, most likely vs. Miami or Orlando in the playoffs.
As I wrote in my third quarter breakdown, my favorite moment of the game came after the Billups injury (no disrespect to Chauncey), when Walt "Clyde" Frazier said, "I slept with many ice bags during my career".
I always admired Clyde for his prowess on and off the court, and was sorry to hear that.
But it was funny as hell.
Clyde did explain that for 48 hours after this type of injury, you need ice on the wound. Hopefully, Chauncey won't sleep with an ice bag though.
[Only registered and activated users can see links. ]