You could feel the shift inside Madison Square Garden and within the Knicks’ offense. Carmelo Anthony is no longer the main go-to guy or player the Knicks run things through primarily. But then there are nights like Friday.
Anthony scored 35 points and hit the game-winning shot in the Knicks’ 113-111 overtime win versus Charlotte. He can still do that, but what’s best for the Knicks is that he doesn’t have to as often now.
Kristaps Porzingis has become a focal point and will be more and more. It’s the smart move, and it doesn’t make Anthony any less valuable or dangerous. Actually, it could make the Knicks more dangerous.
For too long, the Knicks relied on Anthony to do the heavy lifting, or to use the perennial All-Star’s analogy “drive the car.” Porzingis and Derrick Rose can drive it now too. They did it in Tuesday’s win over Portland. It won’t be the last time — and Anthony welcomes that.
“It’s an easy transition for me,” Anthony said. “I always wanted somebody or other guys who can do it for me. Sometimes you want to play the back end and do what you do from that aspect. You don’t always want to be in the driver’s seat.
“Some games call for that, some moments call for that. But it wasn’t my car to drive. I accept that and I appreciate it.”
Anthony was back in the driver’s seat three nights after not scoring in the fourth quarter against Portland. It was needed with Porzingis and Rose quiet offensively until the fourth Friday.
Anthony is 32. He wants to win more than ever, and he seems fine with sharing the ball and shots. He can also give you a vintage performance like Friday. Anthony is averaging 23.3 points, on 18.6 attempts, and is making 47 percent of his tries — his highest shooting percentage since 2007-08
Fans have begun groaning when Anthony holds the ball and it’s not in Porzingis’ or Rose’s hands. Those fans should know that many of the open looks that the Knicks are getting are because Anthony’s on the floor, drawing attention.
Some of those same fans wanted the ball in Anthony’s hands against Charlotte.
Although the Knicks need a balanced attack, there will be games like Friday when Iso-Melo or Anthony in pick-and-rolls carry them.
With Rose and Brandon Jennings running the offense and the 7-foot-3 versatile Porzingis growing as a player, Anthony can now pick his spots to dominate possessions or take over games.
“It takes pressure off of me to try to put the team on my back late in the fourth,” Anthony said. “If you’re down, you want to make big plays. I can play off of that. In the past, it was guys playing off of me. Now I can play off of that.”
The Knicks could be more dangerous because of it.
Anthony was asked whether he cleared Rose and some of Rose’s friends coming over for Thanksgiving with “the home office,” aka his wife, LaLa. “No, I’m the head of the home office. … He’s considered family now.”
THE PORZINGIS WATCH
The only scoreless game of Porzingis’ young NBA career – last season against Portland - stuck with him. He shared it with teammates, and used the memory to his and the Knicks’ advantage - by torching the Blazers for 31 points.
“It was kind of in the back of my head,” Porzingis said. “Not really like I had zero points, now I have to score 30. Just being aggressive and remembering how it was when I wasn’t involved in the game. Just coming out now I know I’ve got to be aggressive.”
Porzingis shouldn’t have many low-scoring nights. Coach Jeff Hornacek realizes the mismatches Porzingis causes and how skilled he is. The Knicks are running the offense through Porzingis more, making teams pay in pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops.
“It’s hard for the other team to guard that,” Porzingis said. “We’re using me in pick-and-pop situations and I can be dangerous from there. I like how much I’m involved now and how much we’re going through me and playing from there.”
IT’S A START
Four wins in your first 14 games isn’t worthy of a ticker-tape parade, it’s a big step in the right direction for the 76ers.
Their fourth win last year came in game 37, Jan. 4. The year before, it was Dec. 23, in game 31. The Sixers already have had their first two-game winning streak since 2014-15, and there’s reason for optimism.
Joel Embiid, the No. 3 pick in 2014, is an early Rookie of the Year candidate after being sidelined the past two seasons. They’re still waiting on this year’s top overall pick Ben Simmons to get healthy. Philadelphia also has two other talented big men/trade assets Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
* Knicks rookie Marshall Plumlee, who took a train from White Plains to Manhattan, a taxi and then ran the last few blocks to MSG for his NBA debut Sunday, joked that the $60 he paid the cabbie to run a red light should be reimbursable. “Tax write-off or something,” Plumlee said.
* More big men are taking their game outside: Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol have hit 25 and 21 three-pointers respectively. Previously, Lopez was 3-for-31 from deep in eight NBA seasons and Gasol 12-for-66 in his eight-year career.