The night started with the two teams trading blows...

With five minutes left in a huge road test against the Houston Rockets, Derek Fishers New York Knicks held a lead and looked around the court for Carmelo Anthony, their top scorer and best closerbut he was nowhere to be found.

Melo had exited the game with back spasms in the second quarter, leaving the Knicks to mount a comeback by committee, and they nearly pulled it off. However, without the cold-blooded Carmelo, they didn't have the offensive firepower to match Houston down the stretch, and Fishs squad fell 91-86.

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We just couldn't finish it, Derek said after the game. We did a decent job of getting enough stops, but we we're a little disorganized offensively, and we didn't get enough quality possessions on that end to fend off the Rockets run.

Anthony was off to a strong start as he had gone 6-of-11 for 14 points to keep the Knicks on pace with the Rockets early. But when he flushed a routine jumper for his sixth field goal, he winced in pain as he backpedaled to the other end of the court, and his 14th point turned out to be his last.

Melo still ended up as the teams leading scorer on the night, as no other New York player even hit double figures. However, 10 players including Anthony scored five or more points, and the bench combined for 49 points. Coach Fish praised the efforts of his team in nearly topping the team currently tied for third in the West, but pointed out that the squad wasnt accustomed to trying to close out a game without it's go-to scorer.

We have some guys on the floor who hadn't been in that position before individually, but also five guys who hadn't played together in those situations, Fish explained. But I thought the effort and the mindset was in the right place.

The night started with the two teams trading blows throughout the first quarter. With the Rockets leading 22-16, Amare Stoudemire stepped in front of a layup attempt from Joey Dorsey, and sent the ball into the next dimension. Shane Larkin quickly snagged the swatted pass, and flicked it to Iman Shumpert down court. A Rocket defender quickly challenged Shumpert, but he quickly dished it to Melo for an easy layup, and a foul.

With the momentum back in New Yorks favor, Houstons James Harden took the ball and answered right back with a spectacular play of his own. The bearded Rocket put a quick crossover on J.R. Smith, who was quickly swallowed up in a screen. Harden had a wide-open lane to the hoop, and slammed it home to bring the score to 24-19.

New York had trouble keeping up with Harden on the night, as he gashed Fishers team for 36 points on 11-22 shooting. Still the Knicks weathered the storm with efficient offensive play, as they shot 58 percent and trailed by just one at the end of one.

Anthony had nine in the first quarter and was on pace for a monster night of his own, but the back spasms ended his chances at the huge game for which he seemed destined.

Back spasms are tough to deal with, Fish said of his ailing star. I've never experienced them myself, but it's not comfortable at all, but I'm sure Carmelo will be back with us as soon as he can."

The Knicks went into halftime trailing 51-46, but a strong third quarter gave them a legitimate shot to win the game. Pablo Prigioni led the way with six points, and the bench combined for 15, but as Fish has been preaching since he arrived in Manhattan, defense made the difference. New York forced seven turnovers in the third and limited the Rockets to just 18 points.

After whittling the lead to 63-61, Fishers offense got the ball in the hands of Prigioni. His defender, Harden, appeared to not respect Prigionis long ball, and gave the 37-year-old plenty of room to operate. Rather than deferring the ball to a teammate, Prigioni fired from his spot, and nailed the trey to put New York on top.

I thought there was a purpose to game to start the third quarter, D-Fish said. I think the guys we're embracing the challenge of trying to figure out how to win this game without Carmelo out there on the floor.

The score was tied at 69 going into the fourth, and that intensity continued in the final frame. J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. traded back-to-back jumpers to start the last quarter and put New York ahead by two.

The deep ball appeared to be working, and the team decided to go for it again later in the fourth, when Smith found Hardaway for an open three, and the second-year man out of Michigan knocked it down, making the score 78-72the teams largest lead of the night.

However, when crunch time came, Houston continued to make shots, while the Knicks couldn't keep up. Harden led the way for the Rockets, scoring their final 12 points of the game, coming as back-to-back threes to break the tie for good and 6-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe to seal the win.

For a quarter and a half or so we we're figuring out how to get by without Carmelo, Fish said. We just couldn't sustain it.

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Posted in Recreation Post Date 05/15/2017


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