Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts to a play during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. New York won 116-111. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks made strides towards righting the ship on Friday, Jan. 6 with a comeback victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Who stepped up?
The New York Knicks have finally ended the worst losing streak of the 2016-17 NBA regular season. With a six-game losing streak and a 13-point deficit hanging over its head, New York stepped up in a sensational way.
Behind the strength of an exceptional fourth quarter, the Knicks stormed back and snapped the six-game losing streak with a 116-111 road victory.
The Knicks had lost 109 straight games when trailing by at least 13 points entering the 4th quarter prior to Friday's win.
New York’s win over Milwaukee marked its first victory since it defeated the Orlando Magic 106-95 on Dec. 22. More than two weeks removed from the last game that didn’t end in defeat, Knicks fans were inevitably frustrated and searching for answers.
It didn’t look as though the Knicks were going to win, but resilience proved to be stronger than pessimism during this sensational win.
New York stepped up on both ends of the floor during the fourth quarter of the five-point win. It outscored Milwaukee 33-15 and proved to the clutch after it captured its first lead of the fourth quarter with less than a minute on the clock.
The question is: who stepped up to help the New York Knicks erase the 14-point deficit and end the six-game losing streak?
Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) holds the ball away from Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. New York won 116-111. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
If games were titled like books or movies, this would have been Carmelo Anthony: The Redemption Game. He stepped up in the clutch, facilitated the offense, and even defended at a respectable level.
The end result was Anthony leading the Knicks to a road victory that temporarily silenced the critics and gave the Knicks a sense of hope.
Anthony went off for 26 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, and a steal in 39 phenomenal minutes. He shot 8-of-20 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3-point range, and 6-of-9 from the free throw line, with no bigger shots than those that gave him 12 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Even more impressive than his clutch heroics may be the fact that Anthony had a 10-assist game for the first time since 2012.
Carmelo Anthony: 10 assists in a game for first time since April 17, 2012 against the Celtics
Anthony’s willingness to facilitate helped pace the Knicks’ offense through a high-scoring game. It also enabled him to conserve energy and have enough lift remaining in his legs to take over during the most critical of moments.
Though every game requires a different approach, this strategy may be the most conducive to both individual and team success.
Dec 13, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New York Knicks guard Ron Baker (31) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Knicks 113-111 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks wouldn’t have defeated the Milwaukee Bucks without the splendid efforts of Ron Baker. Though the statistics may not display it, he was the difference between the Knicks snapping the losing streak and traveling to Indiana upset.
Baker was the stabilizing force for a Knicks team that was in dire need of a victory and trending towards another loss.
After sitting for the first three quarters, Baker played all 12 minutes during the fourth. He posted six points, four assists, and two rebounds. In the process, he made a clutch layup and converted all four of his free throw attempts, including the two that sealed the victory.
Baker also made a number of vital defensive plays as he reinvigorated a Knicks team that trailed by 13 points entering the fourth quarter and won by five.
Ron Baker scored 6 points and was a plus-18 in 12 minutes for Knicks.
He had played a total of 2:59 in Knicks' last 8 games
Some may frown upon the validity of +/- as a valued statistic, but there’s occasionally legitimate value in it. For Baker, it’s telling that he was a +18 in a game that the Knicks won by five points and trailed by 13 before he took the court.
With no hyperbole whatsoever, Baker may have just saved the Knicks’ season and provided a temporary feeling of stability.
Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) controls the ball as New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) defends during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
If you’re watching New York Knicks games with the intention of seeing Courtney Lee produce at a star-caliber rate, you’re doing it wrong. He’s not the type of player who lets basic statistics dictate his quality of play.
Lee is something of a watchful eye who ensures that the offense is flowing correctly and only steps in when something needs to change.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks, Lee continued to provide the Knicks with big plays when they were needed most. He scored early in the first quarter to help New York avoid the early deficit that it’s grown accustomed to facing.
In the fourth quarter, Lee converted a free throw with 1:31 remaining to cut the deficit to two points and hit a shot with 27 seconds on the clock to give New York a 114-111 lead.
Overall, Lee finished with 11 points, three assists, an offensive rebound, one block, and one steal in 35 minutes. He shot 3-of-5 from the field and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc in a display of how methodically he picks his spots.
As far as +/- is concerned, Lee was a +8 in a game that the Knicks won by five points—a telling sign of how important he was to the victory.
Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) argues after being called for a foul during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Joakim Noah’s foul trouble continues to be an issue for the New York Knicks. He fouled out against the Milwaukee Bucks in a continuation of what’s been one of the primary reasons the Knicks have struggle to develop team chemistry.
During the 20 minutes that Noah was on the court, however, he played a crucial role in the Knicks making a furious comeback.
Noah finished with eight points, nine rebounds, five offensive boards, and an assist on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. He tallied a +/- of -6, but that doesn’t reflect the impact that he had on the Knicks’ comeback effort.
That includes the posterizing dunk he had on Giannis Antetokounmpo, which cut the deficit to just two points with 4:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
During his three minutes and 10 seconds of action in the fourth quarter, Noah recorded two points and two offensive rebounds. His dunk on Antetokounmpo was the invigorating play that the Knicks needed to find the energy to close out the W.
Noah has been the most heavily scrutinized player on the roster in 2016-17, but he’s turning things around at the perfect time.
Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn (9) shoots during the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle O’Quinn recently had a multi-week string of performances where he looked like a star on the rise. His production has come back down to earth in recent games, but he remains one of the most valuable reserves on the roster.
O’Quinn played 26 big minutes in a close win and came up with some of the biggest plays of the game for the victorious New York Knicks.
O’Quinn finished with nine points, eight rebounds, four offensive rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and a pair of steals. He shot 4-of-9 from the field and 1-of-2 from the free throw line in an invaluably productive performance.
The ultimate testament to the value of O’Quinn’s performance is the fact that he recorded a +/- of +13 during a five-point road win.
Joakim Noah fouled out with 3:58 remaining in the fourth quarter and O’Quinn threw down a powerful dunk on the first possession that followed. It was a statement play that helped calm the Knicks’ nerves and put pressure on the inexperienced Milwaukee Bucks.
If O’Quinn is back to producing a near double-double per game off the bench, then the Knicks will return to the winning path.
Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) talks with head coach Jeff Hornacek during the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
In his first game back, Kristaps Porzingis shot the lights out and led the New York Knicks to a massive comeback. Though he fouled out in the fourth quarter, Porzingis made the most of his minutes before that turning point.
Without Porzingis’ clutch shooting and exceptional defense, the Knicks wouldn’t have had a comeback to complete.
Porzingis finished with 24 points, six rebounds, and three blocks in 30 splendid minutes. He shot 9-of-14 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and 3-of-4 from the free throw line, which includes a deep bomb late in the fourth quarter.
For a player who hadn’t played a single minute since Friday, Dec. 30, Porzingis didn’t appear to have much game rust whatsoever.
Fouling out indicates that there were issues, but Porzingis played a crucial role on both ends of the floor. He converted a pair of clutch 3-point field goals and stepped up with a pair of galvanizing blocks on Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Knicks were desperate for a victory and, in his first game back, Porzingis helped them achieve that result.
Jan 6, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dribbles the ball as New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (42) defends during the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
When Phil Jackson re-signed Lance Thomas to a four-year contract, outsiders pondered why. On the surface, all Thomas provided the Knicks with in 2016-17 was quality production as a scorer and the occasional 3-point field goal.
What New York Knicks fans were aware of, however, was the fact that Thomas had an uncanny ability to make big plays in big moments in 2015-16.
Incredible hustle by Lance Thomas! That's leaving it all out there. #KNICKSonMSG
Against the Milwaukee Bucks, the invaluable version of Thomas returned. He posted 10 points, two rebounds, and a steal on perfect shooting marks of 4-of-4 from the field and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc.
Thomas was not only perfect from a shooting perspective, but timely in the way he scored when New York needed him most.
For as impressive as his scoring was, it was Thomas’ defense that proved most valuable down the stretch. Just two days after getting burned for a game-winner in New York, Thomas made a defining stop late in the game in a similar situation.
Antetokounmpo went to attack Thomas for a clutch bucket, but the Knicks forward dove onto the floor and picked up a loose ball in an act of passion and desperation.