LOS ANGELES — Jose Calderon wrote his own ending, shredding the developing script between Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony and saving a final possession from disaster.
The veteran Spanish guard drained a last-second, game-winning three to give the Knicks a 90–87 road victory over the Lakers on Sunday. The triple, which went through with 0.2 seconds left, came after New York struggled through to inbound the ball and then failed to get the ball to Anthony on its final possession.
With the clock ticking down, Calderon stepped up, dribbling hard to his right from the top of the key and pulling up to hit over Marcelo Huertas to salvage the broken play.
“We thought [Anthony] had an advantage,” Knicks coach Kurt Rambis said. “We tried to get the ball into his hands but they did a good job of guarding that. The guys read it and reacted. ... [Robin Lopez] did a good job of getting the ball to Jose and Jose created a nice shot for himself. I’m not going to take credit for that in any way, shape or form. It’s just somebody reading and reacting in a difficult situation.”
The game-winner was the only three-pointer Calderon, a 40% shooter from outside this year, hit in three attempts. Adding to the improbability, he went 0 for 5 from deep in a loss to the Clippers on Friday. He finished with nine points (on 4-of-7 shooting) and six assists.
“The last second everything kind of just happened and [earlier] I wasn’t making shots,” Calderon said. “Sometimes that happens, where you’re struggling a little bit and you make the important one. We got the win and I’m really happy.”
Anthony led the Knicks with a game-high 26 points (on 10-of-20 shooting) and 12 rebounds. He hit three jumpers down the stretch to help New York avoid blowing a game that it led by as many as 16 points.
“I wanted this [win],” he said. “The going back and forth [with Bryant] just made it that much better of a game. I’m pretty sure we gave the fans what they paid to see out there.”
Bryant, in his final matchup against Anthony, finished with 14 points (on 5-of-15 shooting). He hit two turnaround jumpers in the game’s closing sequence, but had a potential go-ahead jumper rim out with just more than a minute to play and a potential game-winner glance off with nine seconds left.
Afterward, he lamented the “ugly” nature of the game, taking solace in his tight defense on Anthony prior to Calderon’s game-winner, and noting that he volunteered to guard New York’s leading scorer on the final play.
“As soon as they lined up,” Bryant recalled, “I [told Anthony], ‘You’re not going to touch the ball. I’ve hit like 10 game-winners in this particular lineup. I know where you’re going. You don’t have a chance. Somebody else is going to have to make it.’ … He wasn’t getting the damn ball.”
But Bryant’s two late misses opened the door for Calderon, whose winner brought Knicks superfan Spike Lee, who was seated courtside, to his feet in celebration.
“[Calderon shot] with a lot of confidence,” Rambis said. “He came off, cleared some space and got himself balanced. When you watch the tape again, he really got his feet underneath him and shot the ball on balance. He made sure when he shot the ball that he followed through. ... It looked good all the way.”
The Knicks improved to 28–40. The Lakers fell to 14–53.