New York vs. Memphis: How Important Could Roger Mason Jr. Be Down the Stretch?

No NameContributor IIIMarch 9, 2011

DENVER - NOVEMBER 16:  Roger Mason Jr. #18 and Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks talk during a time out against the Denver Nuggets defends at the Pepsi Center on November 16, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

While there were a lot of positives to take away from the New York Knicks' dramatic 110-108 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, there were also a lot of negatives.

New York led by 17 at one point and even controlled a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter before completely letting up and allowing Zach Randolph and Co. to get back into the game. While Carmelo Anthony's game-winning shot provided an exhilarating finish, it shouldn't have come down to that.

New York needs to do a better job of closing out its opponent.

The Knicks also gave the Grizzlies way too many opportunities from the charity stripe, which Memphis capitalized on. Beyond their mishaps, however, the final score was in New York's favor, and with the Philadelphia 76ers hot on their tail in the Eastern Conference, every win matters.

Still, the greatest takeaway from this game is not the victory itself or Carmelo's last-second dramatics, but rather the emerging role of longtime bench warmer Roger Mason Jr.

The blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade has done wonders for Mason's ailing career, as he's now getting an opportunity to show his worth. It was only in December that Mason called out head coach Mike D'Antoni for not giving him a chance.

The last few games, however, have proved otherwise.

It all began with New York's blowout victory last week over Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets at Madison Square Garden. Mason was thrown into the game late and picked up some garbage minutes in the lopsided contest.

Then Mason's number was called once again in the Knicks' 92-79 victory over a good Atlanta Hawks team, and this time it was during a meaningful part of the game. Mason played a total of 25 minutes off the bench, helping the Knicks to a 19-2 run with five fourth-quarter points and two blocks.

This last Wednesday, Mason again got significant time in the Knicks' road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. He pulled down three rebounds and added 10 points to the mix including two crucial three-point buckets.

The Knicks aren't looking for a new starting shooting guard or an undercover superstar.

What they need, however, is exactly what Mason has the ability to offer them: off-the-bench consistency.

As the regular season winds down, look for Roger Mason Jr. to get more involved and pick up about 15-20 minutes a night. He might just be the perfect role player the Knicks need right now.

Too bad he's just starting to get minutes.