By Ben Horney, Knicks fan since '94
After going 2-1 on a three-game road trip that included a J.R. Smith buzzer beater and a 20-point trouncing of the Miami Heat -- as well as the unfortunate laceration of Carmelo Anthony's finger -- the 14-5 Knicks came home for a week of reunions.
First up was Anthony's former team, the Denver Nuggets.
Having missed the previous two games, Anthony tested out his wrapped finger during pregame warmups and decided that he was ready to return to the court. He struggled at first (missing 12 of his first 17 shots) but came up big when it counted, hitting five of his last seven shots and finishing with 34 points.
He had help from Jason Kidd, who finished with 17 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and J.R. Smith, another former Nugget, added 15 points and nine boards. The Knicks went into the fourth down, 84-80, but outscored the Nuggets by 10 in the period, coming away with the 112-106 victory.
Reunion week continued two days later, as Jason Kidd welcomed his former team to the Garden for the second matchup of the year with the Nets. The Knicks had lost the first matchup (in Brooklyn) in overtime despite impressive performances from both Anthony (35 points, 13 rebounds) and Chandler (28 points, 10 rebounds).
This time around, Anthony had shaken off any rust from the finger injury to drop a then-season-high 45 points on 15-for-24 shooting, including an insane 5-for-7 from 3-point land.
But it was Kidd who stole the headlines, capping a terrific throwback performance (18 points on 6-of-8 from beyond the arc, six rebounds and six assists) with a game-winning 3-pointer to bury his former team with just 24 seconds to play. The Knicks would go on to win, 100-97.
Two days later reunion week came to a close as former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and his Los Angeles Lakers came to MSG. The marquee matchup turned into a rout as the Knicks scored 41 points in the first quarter -- just nine shy of the NBA record for points in a single quarter. Anthony alone had 22 in the period, just two shy of the franchise record (held by Willis Reed and Allan Houston). He finished with 30, followed by 19 from Raymond Felton and 18 apiece from Smith and Chandler. The Knicks won 116-107, improving their record to 17-5.
While the curtain had closed on reunion week, the show certainly went on two nights later against the Cavaliers in MSG, despite the Knicks being without Anthony (who had sprained his ankle against the Lakers). Cleveland's Kyrie Irving put on a show at MSG, scoring 41 points, while wearing a protective face mask due to a broken jaw bone suffered in a game the previous night.
A plethora of Knicks stepped up to trump Irving's performance: Felton had 25 points, followed by Chandler (23), Smith (16) and Chris Copeland, who scored 11 points in his first career start. It was a collective team effort that netted the Knicks a 103-102 victory.
It was their fourth straight victory and their ninth in 10 games. All of a sudden, the Knicks found themselves sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 18-5.
Up Next: The Knicks Improve to 21-8 on another J.R. Smith Buzzer Beater
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images