The Melo Gambit Keeps Paying Off

Anthony outscores Hornets in first quarter en route to 102-80 win

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Just another night at the office for Anthony.

    It's funny how quickly we've become comfortable with how good this Knicks team has looked in the first nine games of the season.

    When word broke before Tuesday night's game against the Hornets that rookie forward Anthony Davis wouldn't be playing for New Orleans, the easy reaction was that the Knicks should go out and win by at least 20 points. Not that they should win, but they should win going away and find plenty of playing time for the guys at the end of the bench. 

    And so it went. The Knicks won 102-80 and probably could have won by more if they weren't thinking big picture and treated the fourth quarter as extended garbage time to keep everyone rested for the remainder of the road trip. 

    Games like this have started to feel routine already, which is also true of the performance of the guy who led them to the win. Carmelo Anthony hit on 12-of-22 shots on the night, including 8-of-9 in a 19-point first quarter that left him in the lead over the entire Hornets squad, and finished with 29 points that would have been much more if not for the aforementioned garbage time limiting him to 28 minutes. 

    You know exactly how Anthony got his points. He blew past bigger Hornets forwards after getting the ball on the elbow and he bullied his way into good shots against the smaller ones as the whole playing Melo at power forward thing continued to be the greatest Knicks coaching move since Jeff Van Gundy latched himself to Alonzo Mourning's leg. 

    Melo still tossed in an iso heave and an out-of-rhythm three here and there, but he does it with that big grin that makes it seem like he's in on the joke and trolling the people who crushed him in the past by giving a glimpse of his old ways. And then it is back to making a great pass out of a double to a wide-open Steve Novak for a three and holding his own defensively. 

    When Melo was going off for 19 in the first quarter, it looked like he could have been on his way to 50 or 60 points. It wound up being a bit more ho-hum on the stat sheet, but even that is worthy of recognition. 

    The fact that it has taken under 10 games for watching Anthony (and his Mini Me, J.R. Smith) play rounded, complete basketball to become routine is a sign of just how complete the transformation has been at this point in the season. Unless someone figures out a surefire way to defend Anthony at the four that's easily replicated, the only surprise is going to come when he doesn't play the way he played on Tuesday night. 

    It's the new normal which is the most happily abnormal development of the sports year. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.