NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony has recently made a habit of giving the ball up late in close games.
His pass to Jose Calderon on the last possession against the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month comes to mind. A few days prior, Anthony passed the ball and played decoy late in the New York Knicks' big road win over the Miami Heat.
But on Monday afternoon, with New York seconds away from an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Anthony had no plans to give the ball up.
“I live for moments like this,” he said.
The moment worked out well for the Knicks and their star forward.
Anthony pulled up from 26 feet with 3 seconds left in regulation and connected to send the game to overtime.
“That’s what he does,” Kristaps Porzingis said.
The shot, of course, will be played on the highlight shows and shared on social media over the next couple of days.
But Anthony's late 3-pointer may have overshadowed several smaller-scale plays that helped seal the win.
With the Knicks down one with just less than a minute to play in the first overtime, Anthony had the ball on the left wing with his back to the basket. He drew a double team and, as soon as the second defender committed, he passed the ball to Arron Afflalo on the opposite wing. Afflalo (25 points) dribbled by Isaiah Canaan and pulled up over a late-closing Robert Covington to hit a jumper that gave the Knicks the lead.
“That, in and of itself, his ability to command double teams when he’s not shooting the ball well, is vital to this team,” Afflalo said.
On the ensuing Sixers possession, Ish Smith was contained on a drive by Lou Amundson. So he pulled up from about 18 feet. A made shot gives Philadelphia the lead with 25 seconds to go. But Anthony attacked Smith from his blindside and blocked the shot.
Lastly, with the Knicks up four and 1:20 to go in the second overtime, Anthony challenged two Sixers for a rebound, causing one of them to knock the ball out of bounds. On the ensuing possession, he hit a five-foot fadeaway to put the Knicks up 117-11 and essentially seal the game.
“Overall, he did what he needed to do to help us win although he wasn’t 100 percent,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.
Maybe that's the best way to sum up the afternoon for Anthony and the Knicks.
Anthony played 49 minutes on a sprained right ankle that was less than 100 percent healthy and missed 21 of 28 shots. But he handed out seven assists, made a big 3-pointer and executed several smaller plays down the stretch to help New York (21-22) avoid a brutal loss.
If Anthony misses at the end of regulation, the Knicks leave the arena Monday as the first Eastern Conference team to lose to the Sixers.
They probably hear deafening boos on their way out after blowing an 18-point lead. And the public focus on Fisher's backcourt rotations in the wake of Smith's big night (he assisted on 64 percent of his team's field goals) only increases.
But thanks to Anthony, none of that happened. He made the big shot and the small plays down the stretch to save the Knicks from an ugly situation.