After declaring his slumping New York Knicks' Monday night match-up against the Orlando Magic "almost a must win," Carmelo Anthony didn't exactly come out of the locker room with guns blazing. New York's much-ballyhooed and just-as-much-blasted trade deadline acquisition managed just 6 points on 2-for-8 shooting through the first two quarters, as the Knicks held a tenuous 48-44 lead at halftime.
In the second half, though? He looked much more like the guy that makes typically sober fans go starry-eyed, lose momentary control of their senses and start swearing off future flexibility in favor of that J, that J, that J. Anthony scored 32 second-half points on Monday night, hitting nine of 16 field goal attempts in the third and fourth quarters — and, perhaps more importantly, drawing nine fouls, including six in the third alone, to post a 10-for-13 mark from the charity stripe in the second half.
The Knicks would need every last one of them, as Orlando's Jason Richardson hit a huge 3-pointer (thanks in no small part to the fact that Jared Jeffries graciously elected not to contest the jumper) with five seconds left in the fourth quarter to knot the game at 100. After a crazy quarter-closing 'Melo possession that might best be described as "completely, utterly not the shot you are looking for in that situation, but oh my God, if he made that, it would have been basically the sickest thing of all time," the two teams went to overtime, where the Knicks held on for a 113-106 victory, snapping a six-game skid. Anthony finished with 39 points, a new high in a New York uniform, on 12-for-26 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
In the extra frame, the officiating — which had rubbed many the wrong way down the stretch — became arguably the central story. Evan Dunlap recaps the refs' dicey late-game performance at the excellent Magic blog Orlando Pinstriped Post:
I believe Knicks fans would be the first to tell you their team would likely have lost were Orlando at full strength, and perhaps if the officiating had been tighter in the final minutes. [Dwight Howard], in the midst of a 29-point, 18-rebound game, fouled out rather dubiously trying to fend off [Amar'e Stoudemire] after grabbing an offensive rebound with Orlando down by 2 and 1:16 to play. Jason Richardson poked the ball away from Anthony on the ensuing Knicks possession, igniting a Magic fast break ... or it would have, were it not for Richardson getting whistled for tripping Anthony after Anthony shoved him to the court. Toss in the fact that the Knicks' final points in regulation came after an obvious Anthony travel and you'll understand why Magic fans are upset with the officiating.
Right off the top, I must disagree with Dunlap: Few Knicks fans would ever so easily mitigate a win or admit to one-sided whistle-blowing. I know this because I'm a Knicks fan. It was clean! No controversy! Concrete jungle! Suck an egg, nerds!
Kidding aside, the call on Howard was somewhat questionable, although as famed Internet celebrity Zach Harper noted (with visual evidence!), it seems very unlikely that Stoudemire bent himself backward and shoved his face under Dwight's arm at the perfect moment to get the whistle. He just doesn't have the limbo skills for that.
On the other hand, however, it was clear watching in real-time (and even clearer running the play back now in the clip above) that Carmelo reached out, grabbed Richardson's leg, then hit the deck after Richardson responded, but the officials only penalized the retaliation. The whistle waved off a Hedo Turkoglu 3-pointer at the other end of the court that would have tied the game with 51.8 seconds left in overtime. Instead, New York was handed the ball with a 3-point lead that they'd never relinquish, as Orlando failed to score another point.
As if Anthony's intent wasn't obvious enough from his actions, the epic trollface he unveiled after the refs called the foul on Richardson's revenge surely laid it bare:
International readers ("Int'l read'rs"): If the clips above aren't rocking for you, please feel free to peruse 'Melo's game highlights elsewhere, thanks to the National Basketball Association, and the trip clip off-site, thanks to keitasss.