Whatever was said in that much talked about team meeting last weekend seems to be working for the Knicks. In the two games since that sitdown, they’re playing more freely and with more passion, and are starting to look like a team.
The Knicks played with all-out effort on both ends of the floor, and Derrick Rose made clutch plays down the stretch to help them squeak out a 107-103 victory over the Trail Blazers last night before a loud and appreciative sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks’ fifth straight home win moved them to 7-7, their first time at .500 since they were 1-1.
Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 31 points, but Rose was huge in crunch time.
He accounted for the Knicks’ final four baskets, with three field goals and an assist. The biggest bucket was with the Knicks clinging to a 105-103 lead. Rose hit a step-back jumper from the left wing that rattled in with 6.8 seconds left to ice the victory.
“I just wanted to win,” Rose said. “I’m not here to boast or brag, but I’m used to being in positions where I have the ball in my hands. I’ve really played like that my entire life.”
Rose, a former NBA Rookie of the Year and league MVP, attacked the basket all night and had 18 points and five assists.
It was the best game at the Garden as a Knick for Rose, whose three knee surgeries that have taken away some of his explosiveness. But he appears to be getting it back. He got plenty of lift on his crucial jumper.
“I finally shot the ball up,” Rose said. “It’s all legs, man
“Every moment, I don’t care where it was at, every moment is big for me. Me being on the court, even the games that I play [badly], I need those experiences. I need that progression. I need to learn from everything.’’
Carmelo Anthony added 17 points, but he was scoreless (0-for-3) in the fourth quarter. He did, however, kept alive the possession that led to Rose’s basket that put the game away.
Rose missed a runner and Anthony slapped out the runner with 31.8 seconds left that was corralled by Courtney Lee.
“I had to do something,” Anthony said. “My shot was shot in that fourth quarter.”
Others picked up Anthony. Rookie Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 10 points, including a three to put the Knicks up four with 2:35 left. Brandon Jennings had 11 assists and no turnovers.
“We buckled down,” Anthony said. “We won the game on hustle plays, extra effort. Everybody gave the extra effort on the defensive end.”
Damian Lillard led the Blazers (8-8) with 22 points, but had a costly turnover in the final minute.
The fourth featured nine lead changes. Portland led 97-93 after an Evan Turner jumper with 6:28 to go. On the next possession Porzingis made a three, and the Knicks eventually took a 98-97 lead on Lee’s put-back with 4:51 left. The Blazers regained the lead on a Lillard jumper and went up 101-98 after Harkless’ basket with 3:58 left. It didn’t last long, as Rose took over.
Rose hit a jumper, made a reverse layup and fed Kuzminskas for the three to make it 105-101. It stayed that way until two Lillard foul shots with 1:22 left. Harkless stuffed an Anthony jumper, but the Knicks got a key turnover when Lillard’s bad pass went out of bounds. Rose missed a floater but Anthony kept it alive, slapping it out to Lee.
“Those plays are huge,” Lee said. “It’s not all about scoring. You can impact the game in a lot of areas. Getting the extra possession for your team is huge.”