So the Knicks played lousy yesterday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, like they played on Friday night against the Bulls (a game they lost 110–106 but was a lot worse than that, though it did have the entertainment advantage of getting half the team thrown out), and all told, the Knicks should be sitting here today having lost two in a row and three of four at home. As Posting and Toasting commenter bluecheese999 (creator of the Jared Jeffries Shot Tracker) pointed out, the Knicks shot worse than 30 percent from three-point range and were outrebounded by twelve. They played bad and should feel bad. Except ... except ... Carmelo Anthony is having an MVP-level season. And it's amazing how sometimes that can make all of the difference.
Carmelo wasn't so hot himself for the first three quarters, hitting only five of seventeen shots, but he went crazy wild in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the quarter to lead the Knicks to a fun comeback 94–91 victory over Minnesota. Carmelo had one of those NBA moments when one guy can just will his team to victory, and even though the T-Wolves were without Kevin Love, they played particularly well. (Nikola Pekovic, who always seems to kill the Knicks, scored 21 points and grabbed 17 boards in Love's stead, a Kevin Love line if there ever were one.) But nothing could stop Carmelo.
It's starting to legitimately look like a Carmelo-LeBron MVP race. The stats will show, as always, that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA — his PER is challenged only by Kevin Durant's — but Carmelo is hanging in there at No. 4 in the NBA at 26.05, by far the best figure he's ever posted. Actually, let's look at his PER figures and rankings over the last few years:
2012-13: 26.05 (fourth in NBA)
2011-12: 21.15 (28th in NBA)
2010-11: 21.82 (16th in NBA)
2009-10: 22.29 (13th in NBA)
2008-09: 19.09 (33rd in NBA)
2007-08: 21.29 (20th in NBA)
LeBron has been No. 1 all six of those years, by the way. But Carmelo will never have a better chance than this year. He's even giving Superstar Interviews on ESPN, so you know the campaign is on. But with what he did yesterday, he was the platonic ideal of Carmelo. He has been the Carmelo he was telling us he was all along.
The Knicks are now 20-7 with the Christmas Day game against the Lakers coming up tomorrow. Steve Nash will be there. That'll be fun.
By the way, it's Christmas Eve, so we're condensing and combining a lot of posts today, so this will serve as our nod to the Nets. They won a fun game against Philadelphia at Barclays yesterday and are now 14-12 heading into their own Christmas game with Boston tomorrow. Open presents early and then hide from your family for about five hours.