The Post Up: Melo Mania

by February 24, 2011

by Adam Figman | @afigman

Last night I went to both the new-Knicks introduction/press conference and the actual Knicks game. And as a result, I didn’t watch any non-Knicks basketball. At all. But I think that’s alright, because it seems safe to say the one I attended was by far yesterday’s most “important” contest. So here’s the deal: I’ll write a long summary of what went down at 2 Penn Plaza—from the presser straight through the final buzzer—and then throw some links to the other action down below, with a mini-mini-recap accompanying each one. That way, those of you who need to get caught up can still do so, and all of the night’s action can be discussed in the comment section below, meaning that space can continue to act as the Internet’s best basketball-themed barbershop. Because, let’s be real: Y’all are the ones who keep these posts interesting on a day-to-day basis. And I appreciate that. Hugs all around.

Ready, break.

New York 114, Milwaukee 108

It all began at 5 p.m., when Knicks owner James Dolan introduced the new guys—well, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in person, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter just by name—in front of a crowd of media members and MSG/NYK staffers. (The group definitely felt Knicks staff heavy, judging by the applause Melo received when he walked on stage.) Dolan said some kind words about the two (and promised that Isiah Thomas had zero to do with the trade), then Anthony and Billups answered some questions, and both stated they were very excited to be in the Big Apple. It’s always tough to tell how guys are actually feeling in that situation, as some don’t really want to be with their new teams, and others are understandably uncomfortable in front of the cameras and question-askers. But as Lang pointed out, Carmelo really did appear to be genuinely happy. “I’m about to go upstairs and play in my first basketball game as a New York Knick in one of the best arenas in the world,” Anthony said. “I’m excited about that.” He wasn’t lying.

An hour or so later, the lights went down, the screams went up, and the new starting lineup was announced. Melo was brought out first, and the Garden welcomed him with chants, cheers, yells, and just about every other positive embrace imaginable. (There were, after all, tons and tons of audience members rocking newly-purchased No. 7 Anthony Knicks jerseys.) With Diddy’s “Coming Home” and then DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” blasting through the speakers, the small forward strolled out, gave a wave up to the rafters, and took in the love being showered down from all angles of the dimly-lit arena. Amar’e Stoudemire, who seems to have gained OG status despite only signing with the team months ago, was announced last. And yeah, everybody in NYC still loves that guy, too.

The Knicks came out with a big lineup—Billups, Landry Fields, Anthony, Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf—but reverted to a small one within minutes, bringing in Shawne Williams for Turiaf. Despite Andrew Bogut’s presence, the Bucks aren’t super-threatening on the interior, so New York was able to go small for the majority of the game and not get punished for doing so. Before the contest, Coach D’Antoni stated that there was essentially no way to prep the new players with the team’s specific schemes, and said he’d really just tell them to “go out and play.” So the ball moved pretty awkwardly through the full 48 minutes, something that should change in the coming weeks. Following a pair of back-and-forth quarters, the Knicks took a slight 59-57 lead into the half.

After celebrating a group of Knickerbocker legends (Harry Gallatin, Dick Barnett, Earl Monroe, John Starks and Allan Houston) during halftime, the Knicks set the tone in the third quarter. With Melo cooling down (he’d end up scoring 27 points, but off 10-25 shooting from the field), they got strong production from combo guard Toney Douglas, who put in 23 and allowed Billups to get some rest without his squad missing a beat. Speaking of rest, we learned this much last night: With Melo and Stoudemire on the roster, the Knicks can (and will) have one go-to scorer on the court at all times—barring foul trouble. This is important. Moving on.

The Knicks could’ve and probably should’ve ran away with it late in the third and early in the fourth, but the Bucks overcame a poor field goal percentage (43.9) with a flurry of threes (11), which kept them competitive. John Salmons did plenty of that damage, scoring 27 and nailing 2 treys. But once New York got its starters back on the court in the middle of the fourth, Milwaukee’s fate was sealed. The Knicks might not have moved the ball very well, but they do know who their superstars are, and they did a quality job of getting them the rock in the final minutes. Melo converted on multiple one-on-one possessions, Stoudemire got to the line a couple times, and Douglas came through whenever called upon, as the Knicks held on late for the 114-108 victory.

As the final buzzer sounded, chants of “Mehhhh-Lohhhh, Mehhhh-Lohhhh” echoed through the arena, and as I was thinking and my dude Adam Fleischer tweeted, it sounded a little too taunt-ish, like they were trying to force Anthony to miss a free throw or something. It should probably be more like “Mel-Oh! Mel-Oh!” But, anyway, with “STAT and Melo” (or “Yeah Carmelo”—they’re really just blending together at this point) blaring from the arena’s speakers, the fans exited the World’s Most Famous Arena with smiles of hometown pride across their faces. Stoudemire said it in July, and Anthony said it (with slightly different wording) just a few hours earlier, but “The Knicks Are Back” took on an entirely new meaning by 11 p.m. EST last night. It might not be the complete truth just yet, but it’s a whole lot closer to it, and for Knicks fans, for the time being, that’ll do.

Philadelphia 117, Washington 94

The Wizards aren’t very good at winning on the road. The Sixers, meanwhile, have been doing that winning thing a lot recently: They’ve now defeated four of their last five opponents.

Toronto 118, Chicago 113

I’m just gonna be honest with you: I have no idea what happened here. Nor do I believe these box scores, recaps and highlights that are insisting that the Raptors defeated the Bulls. No way.

Houston 124, Cleveland 119

Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger (!!!) both scored 30, leading the Rockets over the Cavs, who managed to lose despite shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line.

Indiana 102, Detroit 101

Brandon Rush drilled a game-winner with 5.4 seconds remaining. Swag!

Sacramento 111, Orlando 105

The Kings rebounded from a tough loss to the Heat by shocking the Magic. Afterwards, Dwight Howard (31 points, 17 boards) ripped on his teammates, and deservedly so: Losing to squads like the Kings is a no-no for wanna-be championship contenders.

Memphis 104, Minnesota 95

The Grizz overcame another Kevin Love double-double (15 points, 11 boards) and Michael Beasley’s awesomely blown-out fro to grab the victory.

San Antonio 109, Oklahoma City 105

The Spurs are on top for a reason: They beat other good teams. Like the Thunder. Like last night.

Phoenix 105, Atlanta 97

The Suns have been quiet as of late, if only because they’re one of the few groups who seems to be staying out of the trade rumor mill for the time being. For all of our sakes, hopefully that changes today. And yeah, they beat the Hawks last night. Channing Frye dropped 20.

Dallas 118, Utah 99

Don’t think anyone could blame the Jazz for losing their focus after the wildness of the past 48 hours. The Mavs came out red hot during the second half and earned the W.

L.A. Lakers 106, Portland 101

Kobe Bryant decided the Lakers weren’t going to lose, so they did not. He scored 37 and put his crew on his back, leading L.A. to an overtime victory.

New Orleans 98, L.A. Clippers 87

Blake Griffin went for 21 and 13, but got no help, as the Clips fell to the Bees in New Orleans.