Carmelo Anthony may have missed Thursday's New York Knicks game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a knee injury, but his teammates proved that they will do anything but lie down and die without him.
In a game that was close from start to finish, the Knicks rode 36 points from J.R. Smith and actually had the lead entering the fourth quarter. OKC then turned on the afterburners and won on Kevin Durant's free-throws with 1:38 remaining. In what seemed to be a blowout waiting to happen, the Knicks lost by only one point, 95-94.
This poses a question that no Knicks fan ever thought would present itself: does the team need Carmelo Anthony to win?
Well, based off of last night's performance and a small handful of games over the past couple of seasons, the answer is no.
Look at it this way. Ever since Anthony came to New York via a trade in 2011, the Knicks have gone 11-10 in games in which he has not played. That record is not exactly glamorous, but it is still pretty respectable considering how Anthony has been the main go-to guy for the team on offense.
Anthony has averaged 24.9 points per game for his career, and that's a big loss no matter how you look at it.
But just look at how the Knicks have done in his absence this season. They have gone 4-5 in that situation—which, again, is not a good-looking record. However, consider that one of those wins was a 20-point blowout of the defending champion Miami Heat on Dec. 6. Combine that with how well New York performed against Oklahoma City last night, and it's clear that this team is deep and strong enough that it can make some noise even if its star player is out with an injury.
This is because J.R. Smith has proven that he can be more than just a shooter and dunker, with his ability to create off the dribble showing marked improvement this season. Even Raymond Felton has shown that he can step up his effort and be an offensive force, as has Amar'e Stoudemire in his new role as a bench player.
Thus, as much as some Knicks fans may hate to admit it, New York is not necessarily sunk if Anthony is injured. So long as a strong effort can be made continuously and the right players step up, the Knicks can indeed maintain pace in the Eastern Conference and ensure themselves home court advantage in the playoffs.
With the rest of the schedule not getting any easier, now is the time for the team to prove its worth, unless they want to suffer an early playoffs elimination yet again.