Perhaps that's why the Knicks spent Sunday night convincing the world that Anthony was the last thing they need to take the next step in their ascent to competitiveness with the NBA's best team. Anthony isn't a big man who can defend and rebound, after all, and that's what the Knicks were sorely lacking against the Lakers. They hung tough, but Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom took turns slaughtering them on the inside until the Knicks finally broke in the fourth quarter of a 109-87 win.
It was clear from the start that the lack of size was going to be a problem for the Knicks. Shawne Williams got the start in the revolving spot left open by Danilo Gallinari's injury as Mike D'Antoni tried to kill the bigger Lakers with quickness on the offensive end. That's worked for him at some points in the past, but it requires a spectacular shooting night. Sunday night was not such a night.
The Knicks were 8-of-25 from three, which allowed the Lakers to keep their focus on stopping Amar'e Stoudemire inside. Stoudemire got 23 points, but needed 24 shots to do it in one of his worst nights since coming to the Knicks. On defense, Stoudemire got six blocks when he wasn't getting pushed under the basket while allowing easy buckets for Bynum. It's hard to figure why D'Antoni found just seven minutes for Ronny Turiaf, who would have at least offered some resistance, but the truth is that it wouldn't have made a significant difference.
It was a brutal mismatch and one that remained close through three quarters because the Knicks fought on defense and because the Lakers reacted to every call against them like French laborers told they'd have to work more than 30 hours in a week. Bynum got ejected for emphatically arguing a foul call, Ron Artest got a technical and a flagrant foul and Kobe Bryant picked up one technical and deserved others under the new NBA policy against any extreme outbursts against officials.
His upset was easy to understand. He had the same kind of night as Stoudemire (27 points on 28 shots) and Landry Fields deserves much credit for keeping Bryant from getting into a rhythm. And the entire Knick team gets a pat on the back for being physical, chippy and unwilling to back down from a fight against the two-time defending champions. That's not enough to win a game, however, and games like this will keep happening if the Knicks remain dwarves in a league populated by giants.
At least Walt Frazier brought his A-game. His animal print suit is something that will linger in our retinas far longer than the bad taste from Sunday night remains in our mouth. Don't worry, he assured the world that no animals were actually injured to create the suit, although the same cannot be said of his snakeskin boots with actual snake heads on them.
Glorious stuff on a night that needed such sartorial splendor to create a smile.