There was a time in this Knicks season — an extremely recent time — when the notion of running the team's offense through Carmelo Anthony meant four guys standing around, contemplating their navels, as Carmelo chucked up a fade-away eighteen-footer. (It sort of looked like how every possession looks in J.R. Smith's head.) The lack of a Knicks point guard was their Waterloo, whether it was the pre-Lin days of Toney Douglas or the post-Lin days of an increasingly decrepit Baron Davis. But last night, we saw the platonic ideal of life with Carmelo running the offense. We saw how it works, when it works. And it was glorious.
The Knicks beat the Celtics 118–110 last night, one of the biggest wins of their season and definitely their most impressive since Lin was freewheeling up and down the Garden. The Celtics have been the murderous, cruel bastards to the Knicks for years now, and even though the Knicks were in control of the game throughout, you kept waiting for Paul Pierce to do something mean in the fourth quarter to send everybody home crying again. But that didn't happen — despite Pierce's 43 points — and in fact, the Knicks closed out the Celtics like they were the Wizards or the Pistons or something. Last night, the Knicks didn't just get the Celtics monkey off their backs; they threw the monkey across the room and into a paper shredder. (One big enough to both hold and shred a monkey.)
Much can be said about the Knicks' secondary scoring options finally stepping up Steve Novak hit eight three-pointers, and J.R. Smith hit seven — and if the Knicks continue to hit 59 percent of their three-pointers (bloody unlikely), it's gonna be tough for them to lose to anybody. But the real story, the only story that matters right now, was Carmelo Anthony, a five-time All-Star who without question is playing the best basketball of his career right now. He notched his second-ever triple-double last night — his first as a Knick — with 35 points, twelve rebounds, and ten assists, and there wasn't a single moment in which he wasn't obviously the best player on the court by a rather wide margin. Since March 26, Carmelo has averaged more than 30 points — and let us not forget that there were games this season, games the Knicks won, in which he didn't make a field goal — and he's taken command of this team and this season in the way he told us he was going to, the way we didn't quite believe. It is up for considerable debate how this is going to work when Amar'e Stoudemire returns this weekend — the Knicks are always mixing somebody new in, aren't they? — and there will definitely be times in the future when Carmelo will drive you as crazy as he has in the past. But right now, he is playing at an unprecedented level, and the Knicks would be lost without him. This is what he wanted. It could have gone so wrong. But it is right now going the opposite of wrong.
It was a giddy night at the Garden, one of those evenings in which it felt like your feet were barely touching the ground. (Even Mike Bibby had a nice night. Even Sasha Grey was excited!) The Knicks now immediately turn around and travel across the river tonight for their last-ever game against the New Jersey Nets, who are missing Deron Williams. With the 76ers' loss last night, the Knicks are safely in the No. 7 spot. It's gonna be tough to catch the Magic or Hawks (four back with five to go) or the Celtics (three and a half back with four to go), so it's looking more and more likely that the Knicks are gonna get the Heat in the first round. That's a shame, in a way. The way the Knicks played last night, the way Carmelo is playing, you'd like to see the Knicks facing a Pacers team instead in the first round, the better to potentially get Jeremy Lin back for a second-round series. (Potentially.) But all you can hope for is to have your best player playing his best basketball heading into the playoffs. Right now, the Knicks certainly have that. This is the Carmelo we'd all been waiting for, the one he claimed was coming all along. This could get fun.