For nine quarters since the basketball stars in New York realigned, the Knicks defense has resembled a leaky sieve, the structurally unsound levee's in New Orleans and the ruined gas faucet buried deep beneath the Louisiana Sea.
Even in the midst of all the Carmelo Anthony excitement this was a cause of pre-eminent concern for all vested Knickerbocker-followers. Pervasive questions lingered about Coach Mike D'Antoni's system and whether or not there would ever be room for a defensive mindset in the overflow of offensive schemes that has enabled the team to hang around the league leaders in scoring all season long.
New York was down 34-23 after a single stanza last night and when Miami extended the lead to 15 early in the second period you kind of got the idea the recently reconfigured Knicks were going to be no match for the sufficiently pumped-up Heat.
And that's when Coach D'Antoni looked down his bench and got an eyeful of the the 11-year veteran Anthony Carter, who had come to the Knicks like an afterthought stuck to your shoe while in the midst of delivering cake and champagne to the birthday bash of the century.
Carter began his NBA career in Miami in 1999. To be sure he's no offensive juggernaut, in fact he's never averaged more than 8 points per game in a single season and is a 40% career shooter.
But A.C. can play defense.
An in-your-shirt, check-your-chains, whiff-your-deodorant brand of all-consuming defense that will drive an offensive force like Dwayne Wade, for example, straight berserk.
So D'Antoni signaled Anthony Carter into last night's game and the Knicks started chipping away at the Heat advantage. A slew of three-balls didn't hurt, but it was a run of Miami turnovers and a sudden lack of wide open looks that dictated in full to a 16-0 Knicks charge that suddenly put the New Yorkers up by a point, 52-51, at the half.
From there even the most skeptical observer had to say to his or herself, "the Knicks can win this game." In fact, had D'Antoni's team not shot so poorly—39% for the evening—they might have won going away rather than slip by in the last couple of moments.
In all Anthony Carter played 19 minutes and barely made a mark on the stat sheet—that is, his stat sheet.
On the other side, Wade, the perennial Knick-killer who had to put up with the combined likes of Anthony and New York's two best holdover perimeter defenders—Toney Douglas and Landry Fields—struggled noticeably over the final three quarters and finished a paultry 5-15 for a total of 12 points, albeit with nine assists and seven rebounds.
Barring an explosion from Lebron James the Heat won't win a lot of games like that and they have now lost two straight to the Knicks. That may not mean much when the final gun on the season sounds, but for now it reinforces a powerful New York notion that must attach itself to every fiber of the Knicks' future being.
Play defense and win.
It's really almost as simple as that because when you can put points on the board like the Knicks can, a strong measure of tenacious defense can take your team a very long way.
NBA veteran Anthony Carter kicked in his two cents on the subject last night, and may very well find himself a part of the ever-changing Mike D'Antoni player rotation from here on in.
By the look of things that might work well for the Knicks, who will look to expand upon their success just outside of South Beach last night and need only to review the game film to reaffirm their single most plausible track to a long term winning result.
One time now, everybody, so it reverberates so loudly no New York Knick can say they missed the call to arms.
That's the real New York Knicks way. It's been the foundation of every solid team that's ever graced Madison Square Garden and it's undoubtedly the quality that can lead this 2011 version of the Knicks, if not to the promised land, somewhere very close.
Otherwise: Chauncey Billups hit a monster, off-balance three in the closing minute that stunned everyone in the Miami joint, including a few thousand Knicks fans as well.
The final was 91-86 and Amar'e Stoudemire continues to look comfortable letting Carmelo Anthony get most of the offensives touches while he plays with great energy on both ends of the court. Last night he provided the last second put back of a Lebron James slash to the hoop that sealed the deal for the Knicks.
Anthony had 29 points, and looks like he can score 25-30 in his sleep, though for this three game stretch he's been far more effective working the paint than hoisting jumpers from 15-20 feet.
Knicks are at Orlando tomorrow night for a 7 p.m. tip-off, and return home to face New Orleans Wednesday night.
That's it for now,