Carmelo Anthony was one of the league’s brightest stars when the New York Knicks were still relevant.
Anthony returned to The Garden on Saturday as one of the league’s elder statesmen. The Knicks denied him a historic moment while they continue their rise back to relevance.
The Knicks (11-13) climbed to the sixth spot in the East after turning back the Portland Trail Blazers, 110-99, for their second consecutive win.
Needing only 13 points to catch Oscar Robertson in the NBA scoring list at No. 12, the Knicks vaunted defense held Anthony to just a single field goal after exploding for 22 points in Portland’s big win in Philadelphia last Thursday.
Even Portland star Damian Lillard’s return from an abdominal strain couldn’t help the Trail Blazers break down the Knicks’ stingy defense.
Lillard had a game-high 29 points but couldn’t score in the last 3:28 as New York staved off Portland’s late rally.
Elfrid Payton picked up from where he left off in Chicago, while Immanuel Quickley had a timely mini spurt in the fourth quarter.
Payton was a steadying force at the point of attack for the Knicks. He finished with his second straight 20-point performance with 22 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
Quickley had 12 points in 13 minutes, including seven in the early moments of the fourth period that restored order after the Blazers got within five.
Julius Randle continued playing at an All-Star level with 22 points, including four clutch free throws that sealed the win.
In one pivotal moment in the third quarter, he barrelled his way against Anthony and buried a jumper over his outstretched arms—a passing of the torch moment.
Anthony was the last Knick to play in the All-Star game. Randle is poised to be the next one.
The current do-it-all Knicks’ forward added 11 rebounds and four assists for his 16th double-double of the season.
Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks combined for six of the Knicks’ 13 triples in a total team effort.
The Knicks will have another acid test tomorrow against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
Anthony, who waxed nostalgic and heaped praise on what Tom Thibodeau has done so far for the Knicks, saw first hand what it’s all about.
It starts with defense.
The Knicks held the Trail Blazers to their second-lowest scoring performance this season.
Unlike in their 116-113 loss in Portland, the Knicks didn’t play catchup basketball this time. They were in control for most of the game and played like a playoff team.
It was sweet revenge.
And it came at the expense of Anthony, their former franchise player and the last symbol of Knicks playoff basketball.
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