The Orlando Magic were unable to snap their seven game losing streak on Saturday night for one simple reason: the other team had Carmelo Anthony. The Magic opened that game with the mindset of getting a win at home as they gained an early 14-2 advantage and finished the 1st quarter with a 36-27 lead. The following two quarters went back and forth, but Orlando was ahead by eight points going into the final period. All they had to do was finish the game strong and they would reap the benefits of a much needed victory.
Unfortunately for Orlando, Carmelo had no such plans of letting the game go that easy.
Despite big nights from Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo, who both finished with 29 points, the Magic let the game slip through their fingers and lost 106-114. Anthony poured in 16 of his 40 points during the final period and was virtually unstoppable coming down the stretch. Arron Afflalo did everything he could to counter the scoring that Melo provided during the fourth, but it just wasn’t enough.
When asked about the assignment of defending Carmelo Anthony, forward Josh McRoberts responded, "[Anthony is] probably the best scorer in the world right now . . . If I knew something to do, I'd have done it. So would every other person in the NBA". Simply put, Anthony is a big, big problem for opposing teams.
But the game wasn’t only about Anthony scoring the ball. After the Magic scored 36 points in the first and 34 in the third quarter, New York had to buckle down defensively. The Knicks responded by tightening their defense in the fourth, holding the Magic to only 17 points in the period and also prevented Jameer Nelson from scoring during that time.
The Knicks showed a lot of resilience by coming from behind to beat a team on the road without their starting point guard. Coach Mike Woodson said it was a sign of a team that didn’t want to lose, but it may have been a sign of a little more than that. The Knicks have dealt with a number of injuries all season long and continue to find a way to win games, despite the adversity. It shows that this team is playing at a remarkable level this year and is serious about keeping it that way deep into the season.
Not only that, these wins show that their superstar player is having a special year. After scoring 45 and 40 points in two of their last three games, Carmelo Anthony is now second in the league in scoring (29.3) only behind Kobe Bryant (30.5). Anthony is putting together the best season of his career, shooting a career high 43.5% from behind the arc, and two percent above his career averages from the field. He is making an impact defensively and the Knicks are a half game behind Miami for first place in the eastern conference.
If there is anyone in the league that deserves to be the front-runner for the most valuable player award, it is Carmelo Anthony. He has his team in as good of a position as they could ask for right now and no single player is as important to his team. LeBron has D-Wade and Durant has Westbrook. What Carmelo has is his team playing great basketball on both ends of the floor, no matter who is playing with him on a given night. Carmelo has the Knicks on a mission this year, and nobody is getting in his way.