Despite the concerns surrounding his injury, Melo showed that he can still be Melo.
Carmelo Anthony put up a solid performance in his comeback against the Orlando Magic Wednesday night, tallying 21 points and eight rebounds. Even though it came against the struggling Magic, who are 8-26 on the road following Wednesday’s loss, the Knicks need to take what they can get at this point.
The comfortable atmosphere at the Garden was a welcome change after the Knicks’ West Coast road trip that saw them go 1-5 and lose a number of key players.
With no Tyson Chandler or Amar’e Stoudemire, it was up to Anthony to lead the team against the Magic, a scenario that would have sounded much more enticing if it wasn’t for Melo’s constant injury plagues.
Luckily, Anthony silenced his critics, at least for the moment being.
On Wednesday night, it took him only 20 seconds to drain a three-point shot for the first basket of the game.
He played 33 minutes and coach Mike Woodson made a smart move to take Anthony out of the game towards the end to give the forward some well-needed rest.
This was Melo’s best shooting night in over a month. He went 7-of-14 from the field, 3-of-5 from behind the arc and 4-of-6 from the free-throw line. The last time Anthony’s field goal percentage was 50 percent or higher was in the 102-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on February 10.
March has not been a month to remember for Anthony. After a great start with two 30-plus point games, he’s missed six games overall and failed to impress the last time he was on the court.
Anthony’s first game following the injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers was a 92-63 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Although Melo contributed a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, he only shot 4-of-15 from the field, and the final score speaks for itself.
In the next game, Anthony made even less of an impact. He had only nine points, which marked only the fourth time this season that Anthony didn’t reach double digits, missed all five attempts from downtown and went 3-of-12 from the field.
With those kinds of numbers, Knicks fans must have been wondering which Melo they were about to witness on Wednesday night.
What they got was a player who—in addition to shooting efficiently—took on the responsibilities that come with being a 6’8” forward in a small lineup. He finished with a team-high eight rebounds.
After beating the Magic, the Knicks are 40-26 and clamoring to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks are 34-33, while Philadelphia 76ers, in the spot behind them, are 26-41.
With that in mind, the Knicks are all but guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and the rest of the year is going to be about how much they push their star players in order to get a higher seed.
If Wednesday night was any indication, Anthony is ready for the rest of the season.
Overall, I give Anthony an A- for his performance against the Magic. His shooting was good, he didn’t play a lot more minutes than he had to and his rebounding was solid.
But the biggest takeaway from this game is that the Knicks can be optimistic again.
During the Clippers game on March 17, it was hard not to look at the lineup consisting of Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Chris Copeland and Raymond Felton, and wonder how the Knicks were going to fare in the playoffs.
If Melo’s knee problems truly are behind him, which is what he’s claiming, then the Knicks have a reason to be excited for the playoffs again.