- Last Updated: 5:05 AM, May 7, 2012
- Posted: 1:12 AM, May 7, 2012
For this one day, a day that could have sent the Knicks spiraling once again into the darkness, Carmelo Anthony was the best player on the Garden court, better than LeBron James, better than Dwyane Wade.
It was the day when Carmelo Anthony would not let the Knicks lose, would not let The King and the Heat sweep them away and into next season and dance on the NYK grave.
The day when Anthony enabled the Knicks to scratch their ignominious 11-year playoff itch, the day he ended the franchise’s ungodly 13-game losing streak.
The day when Anthony should have saved Mike Woodson’s job.
The day when Anthony scored 41 points in 41 minutes and made his teammates better the way superstars are supposed to do it and forced a Game 5 Wednesday night in Miami.
“We gave it our all tonight,” Anthony said on the court after Knicks 89, Heat 87. “We weren’t ready to go home yet.”
He was Batman to Amar’e Stoudemire’s Robin when it was Winning Time, after Stoudemire (20 points, 10 rebounds) had been the best one-handed player on the court for a good part of the game, another star not ready to be extinguished.
He was Batman to Mike Bibby’s Robin, after Bibby was summoned to replace Baron Davis, carried off on a stretcher after crumbling to the floor with a dislocated knee, after Bibby had drained a monster 3 from the left corner to give the Knicks an 84-81 lead.
Now it was the final minute and Anthony again shot over Shane Battier from somewhere in the Syracuse area code and an 84-84 game had become 87-84 and the Garden went berserk.
“It was amazing,” Tyson Chandler said. “He hit every big shot down the stretch.”
Now there were 25.9 seconds left and Anthony tried another one from near Syracuse, this one from the right wing, and Battier was called for a foul.
Anthony made only the third free throw, and James converted a three-point play and fouled out Chandler as he did. But Wade’s desperation 3 before the buzzer missed.
James was guarding Chandler, instead of Anthony, at the end and was asked why.
“When a great player has it going offensively,” James said, “you can put anybody on him.”
A smattering of boos had greeted Stoudemire, the populace somewhat torn between gashing him for his well-chronicled stupidity and cheering him on to help avoid more ignominy.
His left hand was protected by a veritable pillow, and even as a one-handed player, Stoudemire set a defiant early tone. He fired a bullet pass to Anthony for a gimme layin; he hit the glass — that’s right — for a one-handed rebound of a Wade miss; he drove left against James, losing control with that encumbered left hand before his jam follow; he snatched the rebound of an Anthony miss with all five fingers of his right hand and two on his left hand for the jam follow.
Stoudemire, compromised by that hand, collected his third foul in the paint against Chris Bosh with 8:24 left before intermission. But he came out on fire in the third quarter. He dribbled left and hit an and-one J over Udonis Haslem before missing the free throw. His catch-and-shoot from the left baseline off an inbounds pass cut the Knicks’ deficit to nine points. Stoudemire then converted a three-point play on a feed underneath from Chandler and it was 51-45 and a layup by Anthony following a fastbreak feed from J.R. Smith off a turnover awakened the Garden: “Dee-fense!” the crowd chanted.
So this was one of those rare days when Knicks fans can let their imaginations run wild and wonder about the possibilities if Jeremy Lin can one day remind them of Steve Nash, when concern over whether Anthony and Stoudemire will ever be able to effectively coexist. When Knicks fans can go back to the future and see Lin hobbling through the tunnel onto the AmericanAirlines court as if he were Willis Reed.
Anthony was asked whether the Knicks’ postseason drought and his own sorry playoff record was a source of motivation for him.
“I try not to think about that when I’m out there actually playing,” Anthony said. “My goal is to try to go out there and win basketball games. My focus is that play, that possession, that game, that day.”
Woodson was asked about Anthony’s day and smiled and said: “He wasn’t ready to go home.”Follow @NYPostsports