Thursday night’s matchup between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers was a snapshot of teams going in opposite directions. The Knicks’ torrid shooting proved to be too much for a frustrated Lakers squad, as New York won 116-107 in front of a crazed Madison Square Garden crowd. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, while Carmelo Anthony finished with 30 before leaving in third quarter with an ankle sprain.
Anthony’s first quarter can only be described as sublime, an incredible blend of accurate shooting and athletic cuts to the basket. We’ve never seen Melo ball at this level before. If you can think of a better pure shooter at the forward position, by all means, name him. And the team assembled around him continues to battle through the elements, despite lacking a true second banana.
The litmus test for New York is an internal one: when Amar’e Stoudemire finally returns, what role will he play? An optimist would say that Stoudemire could fill that “second star” role perfectly with Mike Woodson coaching him back up. But the Knicks have thrived by starting Carmelo at the four, playing off of his ability to create mismatches against opposing power forwards. This is an integral part of their resurgent offense, so it isn’t hard to imagine Amar’e coming off of the bench.
As far as the Lakers go, Thursday night was more of the same. Stellar individual performances, but little to suggest that, as a team, they’re anywhere close to getting things together. But when you have Chris Duhon logging substantial minutes, you are probably hurting. Duhon seems like a nice enough guy, but starting that many games alongside Eddy Curry is never good for one’s reputation.