Carmelo Anthony tied his career high with 50 points, the most he's scored since in a New York Knicks uniform, as his Atlantic Division-leading squad posted a 102-90 road win over the Miami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday.
With the Eastern Conference-topping Heat playing their second consecutive game without All-Stars LeBron James (strained right hamstring) and Dwyane Wade (sprained right ankle) and starting point guard Mario Chalmers (also with an ankle sprain), the Knicks forward came out aggressive early, intent on taking control of the action.
"My goal was to come out here and attack it," Anthony told TNT sideline reporter David Aldridge after the game. "We wanted to win this game regardless of who suited up — Miami still is a tough team, a championship team. We wanted to win this game for our own confidence, our own momentum, and we came out here and did that."
Despite game defensive efforts from Miami forwards Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier, Anthony seemed unstoppable from the opening tip en route to 17 first-quarter points on 7 for 8 shooting, including a 3 for 4 mark from 3-point range:
After sitting for the first 3:26 of the second quarter following his initial full-12-minute burst, Anthony's second-quarter output was a bit more muted. While he got the free-throw line five times, making all five tries, he attempted only four field goals in the frame as Miami stormed to an eight-point halftime lead behind surprisingly potent contributions from usual reserves Mike Miller and Norris Cole (a combined 30 points on 12 for 14 shooting). But Anthony cranked it back up after halftime, scoring 15 points on 6 for 9 shooting in the third as a combination of faulty Miami execution and ramped-up Knicks defense (the Heat managed just 11 field-goal attempts and 18 points in the third) tilted matters back in New York's favor — ironically, it was not an Anthony shot, but a drive-and-kick pass to Steve Novak for a corner 3-pointer, that gave the Knicks the lead back heading into the fourth.
Anthony returned to the bench to start the final quarter, sitting on 42 points and watching as the combination of point guard Raymond Felton and big man Kenyon Martin pushed the New York lead to six; he remained a bystander for most of the first eight minutes of the quarter as Chris Bosh tried to lead the Heat reserves to a second straight win without their two top guns and starting point guard. But a left-elbow jumper over Bosh's late contest and a right corner 3-pointer over Battier's outstretched arm gave him 47 and pushed the Knick lead to eight with 3:33 remaining.
After a big block by center Tyson Chandler, returning after missing nearly three weeks with a neck injury, and a 3-pointer by J.R. Smith extended the lead to 11, all that was left was to see if Anthony could hit the 50-point mark. He did so on a pull-up 19-footer over Battier with 16.9 seconds remaining that iced the game, extended New York's league-best winning streak to nine games, gave the Knicks a 3-1 season series victory over the Heat, and put the Knicks back in second place in the Eastern Conference, just four-thousandths of a winning-percentage point ahead of the Indiana Pacers.
The stellar performance made Anthony the third NBA player to score 50 or more points in game this season, joining Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry, who scored a league-high 54 against Anthony and the Knicks on Feb. 27, and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, who hung 52 on the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 18. Anthony replaces the season's previous third-best scoring total, the 47 points scored just seven days ago by Washington Wizards point guard John Wall in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Anthony finished with 50 points on 18 for 26 shooting, including a 7 for 10 mark from 3-point range. Outside of the points he picked up at the free-throw line, where he went 7 for 8, Anthony had relatively few "easy" baskets — as his shot chart shows, he did most of his damage on midrange shots contested by the likes of Haslem and Battier:
With his focus squarely on scoring, Anthony provided relatively little else in the box score, adding two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in his 40-plus minutes, making him just the seventh player since the 1985-86 season to put up 50 with two or fewer rebounds and dimes, according to Basketball-Reference.com (with a hat-tip to J.E. Skeets of The Basketball Jones). The other six players: Michael Redd, Damon Stoudamire, Kobe Bryant, Richard Hamilton, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Allan Houston, who now serves as the Knicks' assistant general manager.
Anthony had scored 50 points twice before Tuesday, with both outings coming while a member of the Denver Nuggets — one in a Nov. 27, 2009, win over the Knicks and the other in a Feb. 7, 2011, loss to the Houston Rockets, two weeks before he was traded to New York. His previous Knicks high was 45, a mark he's reached twice this season in a December win over the Brooklyn Nets and a New Year's Day loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Anthony is the first Knick to score 50 in a game since Jamal Crawford put 52 on the Heat in January 2007. He's just the sixth Knick since 1963-64 to reach the 50-point mark, joining Houston, Crawford, Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing and Bernard King, Anthony's boyhood idol, who scored 50 five times while wearing orange and blue.
After a subpar March that saw him miss the better part of 2 1/2 weeks with a right knee injury and post several rough shooting nights during the Knicks' current streak, Anthony attributed his white-hot April-opening performance to a return to health.
"I'm healthy — that's the big key for me," he told Aldridge. "[...] I feel like the beginning of the season once again as far as my health goes.
"Hey — I felt good tonight," he said with a smile.