Kristaps Porzingis gets open looks because of the attention Carmelo Anthony commands and because Anthony passes him the ball. But in the last two games, Porzingis has gotten much more out of it than that just from watching Anthony.
Porzingis was unable to finish Monday’s double-overtime win over the 76ers because of a foot injury and fouled out of Wednesday night’s OT victory over the Jazz late in regulation. In both games, Anthony wouldn’t let the Knicks lose. He hit big shots, set up his teammates, was solid defensively and continued to play a complete game.
“Melo is setting a great example for us,” Porzingis said. “How strong mentally you’ve got to be in those situations to find that energy to push through those overtimes and get those wins. How important it is to stay strong mentally to be able to win those games. I think a big part of why we’re able to win is because of him.”
Anthony has had better statistical seasons, but he is having one of his best all-around years, averaging 21.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and a career-high 4.0 assists.
“I just try to take what the game is giving me,” he said. “Whatever that calls for me to go out there and do certain things on the basketball court depending on that night, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Against Utah, Anthony had 10 points and five assists in the last 12:10 and played good defense on Gordon Hayward, who had scored relatively easily for the first three quarters.
Anthony’s expanded game has helped the Knicks to a 22-22 record. They host the Clippers tonight with a chance to go above .500 for the first time since they were 8-7 on Nov. 23. The Knicks are 22-18 with Anthony in the lineup.
Before Wednesday night’s game, Derek Fisher said he can see Anthony becoming more of a playmaker within the triangle offense. Anthony then matched his season high with nine assists. He also passed Larry Bird and moved into 31st place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 21,793 points. He needs only 21 to jump ahead of Gary Payton.
Anthony is climbing those charts, but Fisher believes he’s also on the rise in his overall game.
“The interesting thing for Melo is there’s this land of opportunity out there that he has not quite accessed yet,” he said. “That’s what we’re here to do alongside of him. In terms of where I rank him, I don’t know . . . I’m hopeful that the product is so unfinished that we’ll end up ranking him pretty high among those guys. He’s a prolific scorer, no doubt about it, but I think the other facets of the game that he’s capable of dominating in as well, those are the parts that will elevate him and elevate our team, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Anthony hit the overtime-forcing three-pointer with 3.4 seconds left in regulation on Monday and logged a season-high 49 minutes on a sore ankle. He shot the ball well against Utah, going 13-for-20 overall and 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter and OT. But Anthony didn’t force the issue, continuing to find the open man. Late in regulation, he fed Arron Afflalo and Langston Galloway for three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Porzingis watched and learned.
“He’s doing it all,” he said. “He’s not only scoring. In other areas, he’s at the top of his game.”