The new-look Knicks beat their first big-time opponent on Sunday evening.
The Miami Heat’s Big Three, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, were unable to hold off the Knicks’ rally at the end of the game. Carmelo Anthony had his third big performance in a row as a Knick, but the real hero of the night was the underrated Chauncey Billups.
"Mr. Big Shot," as many call him, made an off-balance two-pointer to bring the Knicks within two points late in the fourth quarter. On the very next play, he drained a deep three-pointer to give the Knicks the lead for good.
Melo has stolen the show in New York since he and Billups were traded from the Denver Nuggets. He's averaged 27.7 points per game through his first three with the Knicks, as well as nine rebounds per game over that same stretch.
Anthony's jersey sales are through the roof. The commercial for Anthony’s homecoming featuring J.Cole and Skylar Grey’s song, “I’m Coming Home,” has sent chills down the spines of Knicks fans.
There is no question that Anthony’s arrival is the big story in New York and his presence ultimately makes the Knicks better, but what many fans are forgetting is the talent and experience that Billups brings to New York.
Billups did not light up the scoreboard on Sunday night. He scored 16 points and contributed four rebounds and two assists. After scoring over 20 points and having eight assists in both of his first two games as a Knick, these numbers do not seem so impressive. However, they barely tell the story of how his night went.
As previously mentioned, Billups saved the game for the Knicks with his heroics in the final minutes. These are the kinds of things the Knicks will expect from a veteran like Billups.
Billups is shooting 43.4 percent from beyond the arc this season. This currently puts him at his career high. Compare this to who he replaced, Raymond Felton, who is shooting 32.5 percent from three-point range this season and has not made a single three-pointer since joining the Nuggets. This is a great improvement for the Knicks who are second in the NBA in three-point field goals attempted per game.
This is not the only reason Billups is called Mr. Big Shot. He earned the name back when he was with Detroit where he was known for making many late-game shots when they really needed them. He may be getting older and possibly slowing down, but he showed us on Sunday night that he can still definitely live up to his nickname.
The Knicks also lacked a veteran talent on the team before Billups was thrown into the Melo trade. The oldest players to take the court for the Knicks this season were Amar’e Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf, both 28 years old.
Billups, 34, is in his 14th season in the NBA, and is the only player on the Knicks roster with a championship ring. This could come in handy in the postseason.
Billups has played in 139 playoff games to go with his ring, and was also named NBA Finals MVP in Detroit’s 2003-04 championship year. This type of experience can only help this young Knicks squad once the playoffs come around. He adds a solid 17.8 points and 5.9 assists per game in his playoff career.
What Billups brings to the table cannot always be measured in numbers. What many missed on Sunday night was his smart play that turned into Stoudemire stuffing King James under the rim to ice the game.
Billups could have gone to help Anthony cover James like many point guards would do, where he may have succumbed to the pick and roll that Miami loves to play and leaves Eddie House with a wide-open three.
Instead, he moved over to cover House, forcing James to try and drive the lane. This is a play that will not be talked about on television or radio, but made an enormous impact on the end of the game.
Billups is one of the smartest players in the league when it comes to both offense and defense. Billups is showing that he can help accelerate Stoudemire and Anthony's ability to figure out a way to coexist by being the qualified point guard, leader and winner that he is.
He has the tough job of trying to learn and lead head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. Learning the tempo of the offense and finding the right places to get everyone the ball. Being the experienced professional that he is, Billups should be able to quickly find his place and make big things happen as he begins his New York Knicks career.
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