Carmelo Anthony seemed caught up in the panic surrounding the New York Knicks when he declared their game Monday was ”almost a must win.”
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Then he stayed calm when he missed a potential game-winner, and the Knicks let the Orlando Magic lose their poise in overtime.
Anthony scored 39 points, his best effort since coming to New York, and the Knicks pulled out a 113-106 overtime victory to snap a six-game losing streak.
Hours after placing elevated importance on the game, Anthony added 10 rebounds, and the Knicks got some help when Dwight Howard fouled out in the extra session, then picked up his NBA-leading 17th technical foul.
”I said that. That’s how I felt, that’s how we felt as a team, that it was a must win for us,” Anthony said. ”We, as a team, backed it up tonight.”
Amare Stoudemire had 20 points for the Knicks, who won for just the second time in 11 games and inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2004.
The Knicks improved to 8-12 since acquiring Anthony from Denver. Though the questions about the deal have grown louder as the Knicks struggle, the All-Star forward showed why the team wanted him by scoring 33 points after halftime.
”Carmelo helped, he was on fire out there.” Stoudemire said. ”They had no answer for him, and then we played great defensively, we got after it, chasing down loose balls, really, really showing the effort to want to win and it showed tonight.”
Howard rebounded from a quiet first half to finish with 29 points and 18 rebounds, but Orlando didn’t score after he picked up his sixth foul going for a rebound with 1:17 remaining in a two-point game, then tossed the ball into the backcourt after the whistle.
”There’s nothing you can do about it now. I just went for the rebound,” Howard said.
”I think that should have been a delay of game,” he added of the tech. ”Every time you roll the ball down the court, they usually call a delay of game, but it’s cool, you know. I’ll try to get it rescinded. If not, I’ll just have to continue to play.”
Jason Richardson made the tying 3-pointer in regulation and scored 24 for the Magic, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and lost for only the third time in 16 games against the Knicks. Hedo Turkoglu scored 18 points, but he also fouled out, leaving the Magic furious with the officiating down the stretch.
”I thought our guys fought hard and stayed in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ”I think it’s a shame we weren’t able to get it done.”
Chauncey Billups made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:16 left in overtime, then Anthony was alone after an Orlando miss for a dunk and a 108-104 lead with 2:46 remaining. Howard cut it to two by tipping in his own miss, but he was whistled for No. 6 when Billups went down as Howard tried to grab another offensive board.
Howard then was hit with the tech for tossing the ball into the backcourt, moving him one away from another one-game suspension, and Billups made the free throw for a three-point lead.
”I mean 99.9 percent when you throw the ball down the other side, it’s a delay of game warning,” Gilbert Arenas said. ”They’ve got to call it how they see it. You can’t put too much on what they do. They’re human, too. The calls they see is the calls they’re going to make.”
The Magic then got another bad break when Richardson was called for an offensive foul away from the ball on Anthony after they became tangled, negating what would have been a tying 3-point basket by Turkoglu.
The Knicks finished it off at the line as the Magic players on the bench yelled their frustration toward the referees and fans.
Billups scored 17 and Toney Douglas had 16 for the Knicks, who shook things up Monday by holding their first morning shootaround at home this season. It was there that Anthony said the game was ”almost a must win.”
They did by finally beating the Magic in a game that was postponed Nov. 2, after debris fell into the arena during an overnight cleaning of asbestos-related materials.
Anthony made another with a hand in his face for a 96-90 lead with 2:03 to play in regulation. The Magic closed to 98-97 on a 3-pointer by Arenas with 32 seconds remaining, but Anthony drove and found Douglas along the baseline, and his short jumper counted when Howard was called for goaltending with 10.2 seconds left.
Richardson nailed a 3 to tie it at 100 with 5.7 to go – aided by defender Jared Jeffries not even putting his hands up to contest – and Anthony was just short trying to follow his own miss, sending it to overtime.
The Magic were without point guard Jameer Nelson because of a sprained left knee, giving Arenas his first start with Orlando but robbing the Magic of perhaps their best clutch player. Backup forward Quentin Richardson (back spasms) also was out and reserve guard J.J. Redick (lower abdominal strain) remains out, leaving the Magic thin on the perimeter.
Notes: Van Gundy said he expected both Nelson and Quentin Richardson to play this week, but said Redick’s injury is ”a little more problematic.” He missed his ninth straight game Monday. … Howard was chosen Monday as last week’s Eastern Conference player of the week. … A Knicks dancer presented Knicks Hall of Fame guard and current TV analyst Walt Frazier with a jar of Snickers, his favorite candy, as a gift for his birthday Tuesday.