Carmelo Anthony single-handedly turned one of the worst weeks in recent Knicks history into one of the best Friday night, scoring a franchise-record 62 points to lead a 125-96 win over Charlotte at the Garden.
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Anthony -- who had 20 points in the first quarter, 37 by halftime and 56 by the end of the third -- broke Bernard King's franchise record of 60 on a leaner with 7:23 left. Shortly after that, the Knicks called timeout and Anthony received a standing ovation as he left the court.
"It was jaw-dropping, man,'' Iman Shumpert said. "We didn't know what to do. It was just get your popcorn and watch.''
Anthony shot 23-for-35, including 6-for-11 from outside the arc, and was 10-for- 10 from the free-throw line in 38:39. He didn't have any assists, but he didn't have any turnovers, either, and grabbed 13 rebounds. "I didn't know I was going to have this kind of performance,'' he said. "It's an unbelievable feeling.''
Anthony not only broke King's club record -- set against the Nets in December 1984 -- but passed Kobe Bryant's Madison Square Garden record of 61 set five years ago. He also eclipsed Kevin Durant's 54 points as the highest-scoring game in the NBA this season. "Tonight was one of those special nights for him," Mike Woodson said. "He got it going and everything he threw up was going in, man. It was kinda nice to see 'cause we kinda rode him to a win."
A win the Knicks really needed. They had lost five straight games, including the first three on this eight-game homestand.
Before the game, Woodson had a highlight film of the Knicks played in the locker room with a speech from Muhammad Ali in the background. Anthony, a huge fan of Ali, recently had a tattoo of Ali's face done on his back.
J.R. Smith could tell that Ali's words had a big effect on Anthony. "From the time we stepped on the court, his whole demeanor was different," he said. "Normally he's smiling, joking, stuff like that in the warmups. But today he was serious. You could tell in his whole demeanor, his face.''
It was the first feel-good moment the Knicks have had in some time. Anthony's timing couldn't have better, as for the past week, nothing seemed to be going right for him or his team. The Knicks were losing, Woodson appeared to be on the firing line and some fans seemed to have gotten their fill of Anthony. There were repeated calls on sports talk shows and on social media this week for the Knicks to trade him and start a rebuild.
The Knicks appeared to hit rock bottom on Wednesday when they fell apart in the final minutes against a struggling 76ers team. Then they announced that Andrea Bargnani had torn an elbow ligament and would be out indefinitely.
The team, Anthony said, knew something had to change. "We all needed it. I needed it. We needed it as a team just from a morale-booster, a confidence- booster,'' he said. "The way everybody played tonight, not just myself, the way everybody played throughout the game, the tempo of the game, it always helps when the ball is going in the hole."
Smith added 14 points for the Knicks, Raymond Felton 11 and Tim Hardaway Jr. 10 for the Knicks, who had only five turnovers and shot 50-for-90, including 14-for-27 from three-point range. Al Jefferson had 25 for the Bobcats.
The timing was perfect as the Lakers visit the Garden Sunday amid rumors that they would like to woo Anthony this summer after he opts out of his contract. There's little doubt that those who watched him light it up Friday night will be lobbying the Knicks to do everything in their power to keep him here.
Said Anthony: "I did it. I made history tonight with the performance . . . There's only a small group of people that know what that zone feels like. Tonight, I was one of them."