NEW YORK -- This is what Carmelo Anthony wanted: Big stage, big money, big moments.
It has been a little more than a year since Anthony forced his way out of Denver and into New York, and since then, the bad moments have outnumbered the good. The Knicks have been swept out of the playoffs (last season), stumbled out of the gate (this season) and last month made a coaching change necessitated by Anthony's unwillingness to change.
In short: Things haven't gone very well.
Which is what makes the Knicks 100-99 overtime win over the conference-leading Bulls on Sunday all that more meaningful. Anthony didn't
Three of Anthony's 43 points tied the game at the end of regulation, a 27-foot triple with Taj Gibson crawling inside his jersey. The last three, a 25-footer with Luol Deng's forearm splitting his vision, won it.
"I don't even know how far he shot it from," Deng said.
Anthony simply refused to give in. Not when the Knicks were down nine with five minutes to play in the fourth. Not when they trailed by four with three minutes to play in overtime. He had some help. Tyson Chandler (16 rebounds) dominated the glass, keeping possession after possession alive by jumping over Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer and batting the ball to half court. J.R. Smith couldn't buy a bucket for most of regulation but his back-to-back jumpers in overtime kept the Bulls from pulling away.
They were good. Anthony was better.
Anthony is completely comfortable in Mike Woodson's offense because it's the offense he always wanted to run. It's Denver, 2.0. No spreading the floor, no quick passes, no spacing. Just isolate, and go. Anthony has become one of the NBA's most efficient scorers playing that way, and Woodson is taking advantage of it.
When Anthony plays like he did on Sunday, who wouldn't? Deng had a terrific defensive game. Anthony still bucketed more than 50 percent of his shots. The clutch shots Anthony made were contested. Hell, most of his shots were contested.
But superstars make big plays and Anthony showed again that he is a big time superstar.
"He is a great shooter," said another superstar, Derrick Rose. "Everybody in the world knows that. He was just knocking them down."
Anthony can enjoy this. He can go home to wife LaLa and their five-year old son, Kiyan, and enjoy the Easter holiday.
But come Monday, it's back to work.
The Knicks need this Anthony every night. Jeremy Lin isn't coming back. Not in time for the first round of the playoffs, anyway. Amar'e Stoudemire might not be back, either. Stoudemire was running through some light drills before Sunday's game but his movements were sluggish and back injuries are notoriously unpredictable.
From here on in, this is Anthony's show. Point guard is still going to be a problem. Baron Davis played less than two minutes in the fourth quarter and overtime because he couldn't figure out how to keep Rose in front of him. And Smith nearly single-handedly coughed up an early 21-point lead by missing nine of his 12 shots through three quarters.
If the Knicks make the playoffs -- they lead the Bucks by one game for the eighth spot -- it will be because Anthony carried them there. The schedule gets especially brutal next week. A rematch with the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday is followed by a showdown with Milwaukee on Wednesday. Miami comes to town next Sunday, followed by Boston two days later.
If Anthony wanted to be The Man, he's got it. If he wanted the chance to win over the city, it's here. He isn't expected to win a championship. Not with this team, not this year.
The playoffs? That's more realistic. And getting the Knicks there will go a long way toward getting Anthony back on the path he wanted to be on when he got here. In the city he wanted to play in for the team that he chose.