On an afternoon with more resurrection narratives than seemed plausible, only one could have its thread taken to redemptive conclusion inside the Garden’s hallowed halls.
With eight seconds left in overtime and his team down but a bucket, Carmelo Anthony dribbled in custom deliberate fashion towards the right wing – his favorite spot – and a waiting Luol Deng. Standing a good 25 feet from the rim, almost exactly where he’d hit the tying trey in regulation, Melo let one fly.
As the ball made its way rim-ward, the specter of the past 13 months – a controversial trade, disappointing Playoff exit, pre-Lin Garden boos, a dramatic changing of the coaching guard – made the orange orb’s arc and path one wholly suspended. In a moment that felt like a million, a pair of narratives dueled.
Either he errantly draws iron, and questions of Melo’s judgment (the Knicks were, after all, only down two) and crunch time pedigree once again pepper back pages and endless digital pulp.
Or it somehow lands true, and the story becomes something wholly other – one of a city and a fan base finally giving itself to a prodigal star self-risen from the crypt.
Amazingly, mercifully – miraculously, even – the latter won out.
In what’s already entered the ledger as one of the All-Star small forward’s signature performances, Carmelo Anthony’s 43-point Easter outburst could very well be looked back upon as a turning point for the Knicks. Mired in a three way dogfight for the 8th and final Playoff seed, a loss to the Bulls – particularly after squandering a 21-point first quarter lead – could’ve been crippling for the orange and blue, who face the East-leading Bulls one final time Tuesday night in Chicago.
With the return of Derrick Rose grabbing most of the holiday headlines, it was Anthony who seemed out to prove his superstar and leadership mettle. After banging home his first five shots, Melo hit something of a dry spell for most of the next three quarters, connecting on just six of his subsequent 17 attempts.
But with the game on the line –the seasons’ chips pushed to the table’s not-so-sturdy center – Melo rose to the occasion down the stretch, bringing the ‘Bockers back from the brink with a combination of silky jumpers, deft drives, and a pair of impossible 25-foot bombs, the latter of which proved to be the game winner.
Despite a full eight seconds in his quiver, Derrick Rose’s baseline floater missed its mark, and the Garden – unusually vocal for a Sunday matinee – turned positively electric.
Of course, there were crucial contributions abound: Iman Shumpert’s vise grip defense and stellar all-around performance (15 points, nine rebounds, six assists); Tyson Chandler’s gladiator glasswork (16 rebounds, 10 of them on the offensive end) and elbow contusion-defying floor dives; and a productive return of Jared Jeffries at once unheralded and indispensible.
But the day – the heroics, the narrative, indeed the moment – belonged to number seven.
The way the chips were falling –a massive lead slowly, brutally bludgeoned away – a Bulls win could have been the point when the Knicks’ season lost all momentum and sputtered to a Playoff-less stop. They could have folded, and it would all have been the same as it ever was for a team and a fan-base now a full decade into futility’s age.
But Melo – together with his clawing cohorts – wouldn’t let it happen.
Instead, the ‘Bockers could very well look back at Easter Sunday as the moment where an entire franchise – like the fortunes and feeling towards its $100 million cornerstone – found itself risen.