When Carmelo Anthony first came to the Knicks, he talked a lot about wanting to follow in the footsteps of Bernard King.
He never captured the essentials of Bernard's Knicks tenure more than he did in Thursday night's 116-107 win over the Lakers. With his former nemesis Mike D'Antoni back in the Garden, Anthony came out of the locker room with a purpose.
It was a purpose he fulfilled with 22 points in the first, a King-sized scoring binge that featured the full range of Anthony's game. There were pull-up threes in transition, drives to the hoop that resulted in fouls and a marvelous dunk over Jordan Hill that were directly in line with his relentlessness from Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Anthony wound up with 30 points in 22 minutes, the most points by a single player in such a short time since 1994, because he completed the King impersonation in the third quarter. Anthony drove past Devin Ebanks toward the hoop and got walloped by Dwight Howard in the one moment during the game where Howard mattered in the least.
That was always the crushing flip side of King's majestic offensive game. We remember the nights he scored 50-plus, but mostly we remember the knee injuries that wound up making King more myth than man in the final reckoning.
Anthony went down, stayed down and the collective heart of Knicks fans jumped up into their collective throat. Suddenly everything about this charmed start -- undefeated at home, two wins over the Heat, ball movement to inspire the crustiest of old-schoolers -- felt like it was running through your fingers like a handful of sand on the beach.
The game, which looked like it would be ending with at least 40 points from Anthony in a Knicks blowout, got closer with Melo in the back and the Raymond Felton-dominated offense looked a mess for the remainder of the second half. It was an unwanted reminder that the finest Jenga tower is one piece away from toppling into a team with J.R. Smith as the Melo understudy.
Reports weren't quite so dire after the game with Melo saying his ankle, knee and hip were sore after Howard's latest bid for the villain status he grabbed for good with his crybaby Hamlet routine before leaving the Magic. Anthony says he's day-to-day and it's probably a good bet that he sits out Saturday night's date with the Cavaliers in order to give everything a little more time to heal before Linsanity rolls into town on Monday.
We glimpsed the ecstastic heights of basketball on Thursday night before getting an agonizing reminder of how fragile such moments can be. That's pretty much the description of Bernard King's whole career, a thrill ride with a chilling twist that no one needs to live through a second time.