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For people like myself that thought the Carmelo Anthony-Amare Stoudemire pairing would be an awkward one with many bumps in the road, the first half of last night’s game between the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks provided plenty of fodder. Anthony was isolating far too often, he was forcing things at the basket way too many times and he wasn’t looking to dish the ball unless a hard double game quickly.
Perhaps you can attribute Melo’s extreme desire to score the ball to the fact the was playing his first game with a new team – in the Garden, no less – and was looking to put on a show for the home fans, but what we saw from Carmelo in that first half was not all that different than what Anthony did in Denver earlier this season and the year before that and the year before that and so on.
But the Knicks acquired Carmelo to score the basketball and he did that throughout the game. He had a rough time doing it in the first half but in the fourth quarter, Carmelo had a pair of huge buckets in the middle of the paint before finally putting the dagger in Milwaukee with a pull-up three. Those kinds of performances are the ones that the Knicks acquired Carmelo for, those big shots in the fourth quarter that they could never consistently get from their perimeter players pre-Melo.
Despite Melo’s 27 points and 10 rebounds, which isn’t all that great when you factor in the 25 field goal attempts, it was Chauncey Billups that had the biggest impact on this game out of the former Nuggets on the roster. Billups had 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He missed eight of his 12 shots from the field but made all 12 of his free throws, several of which came in the closing minutes of the game. Knicks’ reserve point guard Toney Douglas also had himself a big evening, making 10 of his 12 shots off the bench with three three’s and 23 points.
This was just the first step in a lengthy process for the Knicks. They won tonight with their new line-up in tact but there are few better match-ups for a team whose biggest weakness is defense than the Milwaukee Bucks. If defense is your weakness its almost as if you have no holes when you play the Bucks, that’s how bad their offense has been this season. The Knicks will play the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday before their first real test comes on Sunday against the Miami Heat.