If ever there was a day for a player to complete the resurrection of the narrative of a player's career, it would have to be Easter Sunday.
Madison Square Garden has been many things to Carmelo Anthony since he arrived in a trade from the Nuggets last season. It has been a welcome center, a high school gym where he played as tentatively as a sophomore at a dance, a prison, a summer camp where a bunch of kids were sent against their will by their parents and a nest of vipers, but it had never really felt like home.
That changed on Sunday afternoon against the Bulls. As Anthony himself said after nailing a three-pointer with eight seconds to play in overtime to give the Knicks another improbable entry in this season filled with them, this is his house now.
Anthony, who tied the game with another three as time wound down in the fourth quarter, had one of those games that everyone dreamed about when he arrived to much fanfare last February. In a game the Knicks really had to have, one that seemed to get totally away from them after a brilliant start, Anthony took the ball and put it in the hoop time after time with absolutely no regard for who was trying to stop him from getting there.
It's been a rough road this season for Anthony, much of it his own doing, and that's caused his essential talents to get lost in the mix. This recent stretch without Amar'e and Jeremy Lin has been a reminder of how capable Anthony really is with Sunday being the exclamation point to end all exclamation points.
Melo wound up with 43 points and pretty much willed the Knicks back into this thing after the Bulls went up by 10 late in the fourth quarter. The crowd was dead after watching the Knicks let a 21-point first quarter lead melt away and seemed to accept defeat when Steve Novak's potential game-tying three went about 99.9 percent of the way into the hoop before being expelled by some unknown force that appeared to be signaling the moment we'd remember as the one where the Knicks season went away.
As it turned out, that was just the hero force making sure the right guy got his moment in the sun. After Derrick Rose reminded us of the NCAA Championship he choked away at Memphis by missing a pair of free throws, Anthony, who scored the final seven Knicks points of regulation, got the ball on the wing and, with a big ol' hand in his face, stroked a three to tie the game.
The one in overtime was also contested, but it made no more difference. It went down as easily as a Cadbury creme egg, setting off a wild celebration that got even wilder when Iman Shumpert forced Rose to miss at the buzzer.
Shump did the same thing at the end of regulation and he spent the entire fourth quarter and overtime making Rose's return to action a living nightmare. Rose went 3-for-12 in the final 17 minutes and it took him 26 shots to get 29 points.
It may have been his first game back from a groin injury, but Shumpert's defense was just as much of a factor in his inability to win the game down the stretch. The Knicks are forced to play Shumpert at point guard more than is healthy offensively -- see J.R. Smith shooting 6-of-22 in the iso-heavy Knicks sets of the second half -- but the defense makes for a rosy glow.
So does Tyson Chandler's rebounding, which kept alive the final sequence long enough to set up Melo for the game-winning dagger. There's been a lot of talk about the 90s Knicks being back thanks to the defensive turnaround spurred by Chandler's arrival this season, but it had its hallmark moment when the Garden rose to its feet to give Chandler a sustained standing ovation for outfighting the Bulls for an offensive rebound.
To paraphrase Don Henley, we haven't had that spirit here since 1999. That team didn't have an offensive force like Anthony, though, and the combination of that defense with that kind of scorer can be as dizzying as sitting in a freshly painted room with the windows closed.
Sometimes it makes you sick to your stomach, but sometimes it gives you a high that feels kinda nice. Thanks to those three extraordinary performances, Sunday was one of the latter days and wound up as the polar opposite of last Tuesday's dreadful loss in Indiana.
If the Knicks wind up in the playoffs and doing something once they get there, this will be the day that people point to as the moment when they really started to believe. That's what Anthony can do for a team when he finally makes himself at home.