OAKLAND, Calif. -- Are the New York Knicks allowed to have heroes? In a season rife with disappointment, it’s difficult to credit anyone.
Their 89-84 victory over the shorthanded Golden State Warriors may well have epitomized this no-winners-even-when-they-win dynamic. The Knicks beat a playoff team, bringing them within a game of the free-falling, eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks.
That’s a welcome result this late in the season, but it arrived after terrible fourth-quarter execution brought them to the brink of disaster.
Carmelo Anthony hit a big jumper with a minute left but shot 1-for-7 in the final period, ceding a turnover with 5 seconds left that could have been crucial. Overall, Anthony finished 7-for-21 with 19 points.
In the absence of a great Carmelo performance, perhaps credit for the victory was well distributed among Knicks players.
“Tonight was a great team win for us," Anthony said. "When we play like that as a team we get results like this.”
Or maybe J.R. Smith was the hero, with his incendiary 6-of-7 shooting in the first half.
Smith, who finished with 21 points, helped spur a massive 34-12 second quarter for the Knicks, attacking and slashing to go along with two 3-pointers.
“Once we started attacking, as opposed to settling for jump shots, it really worked for us and I think we really need to stick to that," Smith said. "When our jumpers are falling, it is fine to take them, but when they are not, you have to figure out some way to get to the basket.”
The Knicks were happy to see Stephen Curry panic under pressure on Golden State’s final possession. Down three with five seconds left, the All-Star point guard turned the ball over when faced with a Raymond Felton closeout.
Given that Curry couldn’t get off a final shot and how stymied the Warriors' offense was (35.4 percent shooting), perhaps much of the credit redounds to Felton and the backcourt's defense. Though Curry had a good game with 32 points on 21 shots, Felton’s rabid ball denial gave Golden State’s offense fits all evening.
“It’s about pride,” Felton said. "No excuses. You got to do what you got to do. It’s a hard job, but you’ve got to do it.”
The Knicks have a difficult task clawing back into these playoffs. Few will bestow credit should they make it, given how high expectations were to start the season. Despite their current status and despite the anticipated lack of accolades should they succeed, the Knicks still have time to do a job and take pride in their effort.
X-rays negative for Melo: Carmelo Anthony hurt his left wrist in the third quarter when Andre Iguodala struck it on an attempted strip. X-rays on the hand were negative. No foul was called on the play.