Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts after hitting a three-point basket along with director Spike Lee during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Knicks secured the biggest win of the season on Sunday, Feb. 12. Who stepped up against the mighty San Antonio Spurs?
The New York Knicks entered Sunday, Feb. 12 with a desperate need to secure an unlikely victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The defense finally showed up with its most impressive performance to date and the offense did enough to preserve the win.
Though a single victory may not signal a turnaround, the Knicks were able to ride the contributions of a number of key players to a 94-90 win that could save the season.
New York stunned San Antonio by playing what may have been its best defense of the season. It collapsed on slashers, closed out on shooters, and overcame turnovers and poor rebounding to hold on for the victory.
With the offense needing to step up in the clutch, the Knicks provided a rare display of fireworks in the fourth quarter.
In a rematch of the 1999 NBA Finals, the Knicks took on the Spurs with team legends Latrell Sprewell and Larry Johnson sitting courtside. New York did them proud by defeating San Antonio in somewhat convincing fashion.
Though the win may not guarantee a turnaround, the following players offered New York Knicks fans a rare reason for optimism.
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts after hitting a three-point basket during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Carmelo Anthony started the game against the San Antonio Spurs in underwhelming fashion. He struggled to find his range as a shooter, missed makable shots, and seemed overwhelmed by the incessant distractions.
Sports are about how you finish, however, and Anthony led the New York Knicks to victory with one of his most clutch performances of the 2016-17 NBA regular season.
Anthony finished with a team-high 25 points, as well as seven rebounds, two assists, and an offensive rebound in 40 minutes of play. He shot 9-of-21 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and 4-of-6 from the free throw line.
More importantly, Anthony scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including seven points in the final three minutes alone.
Anthony looked defeated early in the game, but he dug deep and stepped up when his team needed him most. No matter how he may have started, Anthony finished in style by providing the clutch heroics he’s known and needed for.
In the face of adversity, Anthony answered the call against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA by icing the Knicks’ biggest victory of 2016-17.
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Willy Hernangomez is a throwback big man who plays from the post and possesses a well-rounded arsenal of offensive moves. He’s also a rugged rebounder who’s becoming a nightly double-double threat for the New York Knicks.
Matched up against the NBA’s European standard in the San Antonio Spurs, Hernangomez had a game to remember.
Hernangomez finished the 94-90 win with 12 points, nine rebounds, three offensive boards, one assist, and three steals in 29 minutes. He shot 6-of-8 from the field and made an awe-inspiring finish with less than two minutes remaining to help secure the victory.
In just his second NBA start, Hernangomez displayed poise and confidence well beyond his years—and made quite the case for the full-time starting role.
Of the 26 points that the Knicks managed to score in the paint, Hernangomez provided 12 of them. Though the NBA may be infatuated with 3-point shooting and transition basketball, players who can consistently create points inside remain invaluable.
Hernangomez is built for the postseason and performances like this are prime examples of why Phil Jackson was so eager to bring him to the NBA.
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) battles for a loose ball with San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks wouldn’t have pulled away from the San Antonio Spurs without Courtney Lee. For that matter, the Knicks wouldn’t have been able to play at nearly as high of a level on defense without Lee.
Lee was everywhere on the defensive end of the floor, which includes a clutch play late in the fourth quarter that saved New York from disaster.
Lee finished the 94-90 victory with nine points, five rebounds, five assists, one offensive rebound, and one steal in 35 minutes of court time. He shot 4-of-9 from the field and made a 3-point field goal that helped set the tone for the second half.
More importantly, Lee was a hound on defense who played brilliantly away from the ball and held his own in an on-ball capacity, as well.
Lee’s biggest impact on the game was his transition defense on a crucial play late in the fourth quarter. San Antonio had numbers in the open court, but Lee disrupted the offense, stole the ball, and found Carmelo Anthony for a defining 3-point field goal.
That play prevented San Antonio from tying the game. It was also a microcosm of what made Lee’s performance so special and what Knicks fans hope to see from him from hereon out.
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Davis Bertans (42) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Kristaps Porzingis drew difficult assignments against the San Antonio Spurs from a one-on-one perspective. Fortunately, head coach Jeff Hornacek did an outstanding job of helping Porzingis cover less ground and spend more time protecting the rim.
With Porzingis anchoring the interior of the New York Knicks’ defense, San Antonio managed to score just 36 points in the paint.
Porzingis posted a solid 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting, which includes marks of 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out two assists.
The numbers that defined Porzingis’ performance, however, were the four blocks and one steal that he recorded as New York’s defensive anchor.
Porzingis accumulated a +/- of +20 in his 37 minutes of action against the Spurs. The key to his success was a change in approach, as New York enabled him to play more along the interior on the defensive end of the floor instead of having him run out against shooters.
Porzingis is a walking mismatch on both ends of the floor, and against San Antonio, he proved exactly why he’s the future face of the franchise.
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
When the New York Knicks traded for point guard Derrick Rose, the goal was to acquire a player who could consistently create penetration. The inability to do so was a primary reason why New York’s offense struggled as a whole in 2015-16.
Rose has excelled at getting to the basket in 2016-17, and against the San Antonio Spurs, his ability to do so helped fuel New York’s victory.
Rose finished with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, and a block in 30 pivotal minutes for the Knicks. He shot 6-of-11 from the field, which included a continued improvement from midrange and a number of gorgeous finishes at the rim.
Rose, who remains the only player on the Knicks who can consistently beat his man off the dribble and get to the iron, also hit a pair of clutch free throws in a four-point win.
One could conceivably point to Rose’s ratio to two assists to three turnovers, but New York wouldn’t have won this game without him. It scored 26 points in the paint as a team and Rose scored eight himself.
Rose will need to improve as a facilitator for the Knicks to realize their potential, but his development as a scorer has been fun to watch in 2016-17.