Carmelo Anthony engineered the Knicks’ resurgence at the right time, with the Celtics, Hornets and Magic stalling in the Eastern Conference.
Before we get into this week’s Power Rankings, a quick mea culpa regarding the New York Knicks. A month ago, I had them buried as low as 27—and perhaps that was a bit premature. See, there was this 11-game run scheduled ahead, with three back-to-backs and seven road games, 10 of which were played against the East and one against the Spurs. Every single opponent was over .500, and the Knicks were 11–14 after a four-game losing streak. It wasn’t hard to imagine their early-season flashes being shuttered by cold reality.
Well, that stretch resulted in five wins and six losses. It did include another four-game spell, but after a win against Detroit Dec. 29, New York had gone 5–2 and came within one shot of becoming the first team to win a game in San Antonio all season. The Knicks now have 19 wins; they won 17 games all of last season. By no means should hovering at .500 be considered a grand achievement, but relative to their expectations, and in the greater scheme of the season, it’s been a more than pleasant surprise.
Carmelo Anthony’s locked in and playing multi-dimensional basketball for the first time since who-knows when. Dating back to New York’s Dec. 19 win over Chicago (the beginning of the death slate), he’s leading the team in points (22.2), rebounds (8.5) and assists (4.6) per game and has shown visible defensive effort. He’s ceding shots to a rejuvenated Arron Afflalo and nuclear highlight generator Kristaps Porzingis. That trust has lent itself to his most inspired play in years, and the team appears to be following suit.
The Knicks have also sculpted a useful bench out of loose parts. Hustle plays are happening. The team is actually pretty entertaining. Even better, the recent surge has coincided with stumbles from Boston, Orlando and Charlotte. This is what a competent Knicks team looks like, and it’s been a minute. Spike Lee, eat your heart out.