Winning Agrees With the Knicks

Carmelo Anthony has really changed the story.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Anthony played the role of smiling assassin on Sunday.

    Remember when the Knicks were the team that traded away their heart and soul just in time to sabotage all the good things that they accomplished this season? 

    It shouldn't be too hard. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Carmelo Anthony was a feckless ball hog concerned more with his statistics than winning games and that the Knicks couldn't net a victory to save their lives.

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    Now that the Knicks know who they are playing in the playoffs, that would be the Celtics, they are exuding confidence as they prepare for their first postseason appearance in 7 years.

    That's not the case anymore. Sunday night in Indiana became the seventh straight win and, like a fair amount of the others, Anthony was the man to thank for the happy outcome.

    He scored 34 points, drilled six three-pointers and made the game-winning shot that he didn't get a chance to take the last time the Knicks were in Indiana. Danny Granger did the honors in that contest, but this time around Anthony blocked his last shot and the Knicks raced off the court with their 42nd victory of the season.

    That means 2010-2011 is a winning season, their first since 2000-2001, and it makes them a very solid bet to wind up with the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

    That's a nice change from the way things were looking in late March and the Knicks really have no one to thank for it more profusely than Anthony. The last seven games have done plenty to make that earlier attempt to paint him into a box as his scoring, rebounding and all-around effort have been the driving force behind the Knicks' resurrection.

    The rapid change of story for the Knicks makes it a bit amusing that their most likely first round opponent is the Boston Celtics. While the Knicks have been flipping the script written by their massive deadline deal, the Celtics are slipping deeper and deeper into the abyss created by theirs.

    Trading Kendrick Perkins and old friend Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic was supposed to shore up Boston's perimeter needs while taking from their surplus of inside players. It turns out that Perkins was the one big body they really needed, though, and the team looks short of the toughness that made them so dangerous. 

    They're 9-10 since the deal and Sunday saw them get completely outmuscled by the Heat, a team that's been branded as the likeliest team to fold after taking a punch in the stomach. Counting the Celtics out or taking them less seiously is insane, but they aren't quite so scary anymore. 

    Anthony has a lot to do with that as well. The Celtics have a knack for ratcheting up their intensity to outlandish levels and the Knicks seemed to be short of anyone capable of doing the same in return. 

    It doesn't seem that way any more, just in time for the Knicks to make their return to playoff basketball.  

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.