Carmelo Anthony Wins NBA Player of the Night After Colossal Performance vs Suns
More importantly, however, was the two-way resilience Anthony displayed as New York nearly squandered a monstrous lead down the stretch.
His continued excellence ensured that the Knicks put just enough distance between themselves and a relentless Suns team.
Stat Line: 34 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and one steal on 40.7 percent shooting.
It wasn't the most efficient of games for 'Melo, but it did mark the 10th straight contest in which he dropped 20 or more points.
Anthony came out firing from the start, scoring eight points to begin the game, as the Knicks opened up a 21-6 advantage. He tallied 17 points in all throughout the first two quarters, helping New York take a 17-point lead into halftime.
Once again, it appeared that the Knicks—who are posting the second-highest win differential in the league—were headed toward another lopsided victory. As has become the trend, the need for 'Melo to have as equally big a second half as the first was supposed to be nonexistent.
This time, however, that simply wasn't the case.
Phoenix refused to go away, as it appeared New York had taken its foot off the gas in the latter stages of this bout. The Suns cut the lead to as little as four in the final quarter, leaving many to wonder whether a massive collapse was on the horizon for the Knicks.
But it wasn't. Anthony simply had too strong a performance, rattling off 17 points in the second half as well while also remaining active on the defensive end.
Sunday's game marked the third time this season that 'Melo blocked at least two shot-attempts, a feat he accomplished just three times all of last season. Yes, his offensive output was impressive, but his increased involvement on defense was just as crucial, as it allowed him to lead New York's two-way cause by example.
Raymond Felton fueled a waning fourth-quarter surge that allowed the Knicks to fend off the Suns' comeback, and Tyson Chandler posted a double-double, yet it's abundantly clear New York wouldn't have won this game without Anthony.
Because the Knicks needed him in this one.
New York needed him to score, so he did. The Knicks needed him to hit the offensive glass hard, so he brought down three. They needed him to play stellar defense without sacrificing anything on offense, so he did.
And they needed him to perform and produce at such a pace for the game's entirety, so again, he did.
Anthony is the the guy who logged nearly 38 minutes of burn versus an opponent that New York would have hoped to give him some rest against. He is the guy who continued to master the art of deciphering between when to attack and when to defer. And he's the guy who the Knicks posted a plus-16 with on the floor.
Who was the NBA's top performer Sunday?
Credit New York as a collective unit for refusing to allow Phoenix to complete the comeback, but credit Anthony for putting the Knicks in a situation where that was possible, even though the team was far from at its best.
"We closed it out and got a 'W,' that's what counts," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said (via Adam Zagoria of NBA.com)
While snagging the victory is ultimately all that mattered Sunday, we'd be lying if we didn't admit that Anthony's performance was a tell-tale sign that we are no longer in the presence of strictly a scorer.
Instead, we are bearing witness to a new kind of 'Melo. One that both scores and defends, one that rebounds on both ends of the floor.
One that does whatever is asked of him in the name of winning.
All stats in this article are accurate as of December 3rd, 2012.
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