Carmelo Anthony insisted it would take some time for the New York Knicks to show their true potential after the blockbuster trade that brought him and Chauncey Billups over from Denver.
His prediction seems to be right on.
Anthony scored 34 points, making the go-ahead jumper with 4.9 seconds left and blocking a potential winning attempt by Danny Granger, helping the Knicks beat the Indiana Pacers 110-109 on Sunday night for their seventh straight win.
New York went 7-12 after the trade with Denver in February, including six consecutive losses. The Knicks beat Orlando on March 28 to start their current winning streak.
”As a team, we’ve come a long way since I’ve gotten here,” Anthony said. ”I think everybody bought into what’s going on, bought into the Mike D’Antoni system. I told you it was going to take some time. It’s starting to click, offensively and defensively.”
Billups had 21 points and seven assists and Toney Douglas scored 14 for the Knicks (42-38), who moved a game ahead of idle Philadelphia for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
”It was bigger than that,” Anthony said. ”It was a big game for us confidence-wise. Coming down the stretch, finishing out the regular season with some good momentum, trying to make a big push. Tonight was another game we had to finish out.”
New York, which trailed by 11 early in the fourth quarter, used a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to 98-97. Granger’s 3-pointer and Josh McRoberts’ runner stopped the spurt and helped Indiana regain the momentum.
The Pacers extended their advantage to 109-103 with 3:31 left, but the Knicks scored the next five points, including Landry Fields’ dunk with 39 seconds left, to get within 109-108.
After Darren Collison missed a jumper on the Pacers’ ensuing possession, the Knicks got the ball back with 13 seconds remaining. Anthony got the ball, made a couple of moves and fired a 19-footer over Granger’s outstretched hand.
”I just love those moments,” Anthony said. ”I make the shot, I’m a hero. I don’t, move on to the next game.
”I knew it was in,” he added. ”Some of them, I’m kind of skeptical about. As soon as I released it, you just get that feeling. I came to the bench and told Jared (Jeffries), ‘If we get a stop, we’re going to go home happy.”’
D’Antoni left it up to Anthony on the Knicks’ final offensive possession.
”You let Melo go to work,” D’Antoni said, ”and it all works out.”
Granger tried to give Indiana the win with time running out, but Anthony got a piece of his jumper. Collison caught the ball in the air and missed a shot of his own. Mike Dunleavy missed a tip at the buzzer, although it may have been too late, anyway.
”We had the game, let it get away,” said Granger, who had 20 points. ”I have no comments on the final play of the game.”
Roy Hibbert added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana (37-44). The Pacers are locked into the No. 8 playoff seed.
”A tough loss down the stretch,” Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel said. ”They made the plays and we didn’t.”
The Pacers, who trailed by six at halftime, outscored New York 35-20 in the third quarter to open a nine-point lead. Hibbert’s jumper gave Indiana a 93-87 advantage and A.J. Price’s 3-pointer at the buzzer made it 96-87.
Notes: Knicks president Donnie Walsh made his first road trip of the season beyond Newark for Sunday’s game. He had hip replacement surgery in November, limiting his travel to two games at New Jersey. Walsh, the former Pacers president whose contract is not guaranteed for next season with the Knicks, denied speculation that he could return to the Pacers. ”I’m angry about that,” Walsh said Sunday. ”There’s absolutely no truth to it. I never talked to (Pacers owner) Herb Simon or anybody else about it.” Walsh still has a home in the Indianapolis area. … Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough is averaging 24.3 points in three games against New York. He set career highs of 29 and 30 points in a three-day span against the Knicks in March. Hansbrough did not play in the teams’ first game in January.