It’s becoming fairly obvious that if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t carry the Knicks, this series will be over in four hard-fought games.
The Knicks have two very banged up stars in Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire, both of whom are very questionable for Friday’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden as the Celtics lead the series, 2-0, and need just two more wins to advance to the Eastern Conference semis.
The thing is Anthony almost DID do it by himself in Game 2 Tuesday. He scored 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. But that wasn’t the first time a Knicks star put the team on his back and carried them.
All Knicks fans either remember – or have been reminded of – captain Willis Reed in Game 7 limping onto the court at Madison Square Garden, inspiring his team to a NBA title-clinching win over the Lakers in 1970.
But the more appropriate and obvious comparison is to No. 30 Bernard King.
The year was 1984. The Knicks were on the road at Joe Louis Arena for a decisive Game 5. They were underdogs and Isaiah Thomas was electrifying the crowd. But King didn’t flinch – even with the Detroit crowd going nuts.
He poured in 44 points to lead his team to an amazing 127-123 overtime win and a ticket to the Eastern Conference semis against the Celtics.
But what make Bernard King’s performance truly amazing was that it was the fourth straight game of at least 40 points, even with everyone in the world knowing he was getting the ball. Starting with back-to-back 46-point games in Games 2 and 3, King was the best player in the series. He followed that up with a mundane 41 points in Game 4 before lighting the board for 44 in Game 5. Take a trip down memory lane with Marv Albert and John Andraiese, both of whom are still broadcasting NBA games 27 years later.
In 1984, the Celtics were on a playoff run that ended with an electrifying win over the Lakers in Game 7 in the NBA finals. But Boston’s 15th NBA title nearly didn’t happen. King had 43 in New York’s Game 4 win at MSG and 44 more in Game 6 back in New York to force Game 7. The Celtics eventually survived the Knicks in seven fierce games. Sound familiar?
What was it like for Melo on Tuesday night, trying to do for his Knicks teammates what King did 27 years ago?
‘It was fun, for the most part,” Anthony said. “We were out there fighting man. My teammates stuck with me, I had confidence in them. It was just a battle. It came down to a couple of plays down the stretch, but for the most part throughout the whole game I think we played fantastic.
“Defensively we did, offensively I kind of had it going tonight. I made other guys better, they felt confident out there when they got the ball to make something happen. KG hit a tough shot over Jared, contested shot. For the most part we played great tonight. We can’t hang our heads over something like this. We’ve got to take this and build on it going back home.’
And Anthony repeated his mantra of Game 1 that the Celtics didn’t do anything special in winning the first two games. They just held serve.
‘There were some things when you look back you say ‘We could have done this, we could have done that, we could be up 2-0 if we did some things right,'” Anthony added. “For the most part, we are playing our [butts] off. We’re playing great. For some guys, this is their first time in the playoffs and for them to be stepping up to the plate like that, taking on the challenge against a championship team like the Celtics, we’re doing great. The Celtics didn’t do anything special, they won 2 games on their home court. Now it’s our turn to do the same thing.’