Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — With their 131-109 dismantling of the Utah Jazz Monday night at Madison Square Garden, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony gave the rest of the NBA a glimpse into just how efficient and ruthless the new-look Knicks can be going forward.
Stoudemire and Anthony combined for 65 points and missed just seven total shots on the night. Neither played the fourth quarter. The game was effectively over at halftime, when the Knicks led 66-48.
Anthony tallied 34 points on 12 of 16 shooting and Stoudemire finished with 31 on 12 of 15 shooting in just 24 minutes. Toney Douglas added 20 points in place of the injured Chauncey Billups (bruised left quad).
“We’re not going to shoot like that,” Anthony said. “There’s not going to be a game where we only miss six or seven shots combined…We hope that we go out there and score 30 points and we win and everybody else [is] contributing in their own way. But I don’t want to put that pressure on me to go out there and say that I want to score 30 points a night. I’m past that now.”
This was by far the best combined game between the two superstars since Anthony and Billups were acquired Feb. 21 in a 13-player trade with the Denver Nuggets.
For the first time, both stars scored 30+ points. What’s more, all five of Anthony’s assists went to Stoudemire.
“Just trying to play opposite of each other, just trying to work off each other,” Anthony said. “Guys tend not to leave me on the defensive end, so it opens up for him a lot. When I got the ball in the post, teams double-team. Tonight we took advantage of that on the double-team. The quick pass to him was right there, he was wide open.
“I’ve been talking to him about just trying to get him more open shots, more open looks and vice versa.”
Said Stoudemire: “It takes time to really get the rhythm down but as the game goes both players, myself and Carmelo, can score one-on-one with ease. But to really get other players involved and play team basketball is the ultimate goal for us. And tonight was a factor of us working together out there so it worked out well.”
Anthony rebounded from a tough game in Atlanta on Sunday, in which he managed just 14 points and complained of a headache.
“I took my Tylenol so it helped out,” Anthony said. “It was just a great way for me to just bounce back after a game like that. I wanted to bounce back personally and just come out from the beginning tonight.”
The Knicks improved to 5-3 since the trade and did so with Billups, Ronny Turiaf and Bill Walker all on the bench with injuries. They remain in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.
They destroyed a Utah team that entered the night in the eight spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
With this latest effort, is Anthony allowing himself to think about the playoffs?
“If the postseason started next week we’ll be in there,” Anthony said. “But I’ve been in races like this where it came down to the last game. In the West, 50 games wasn’t getting you in the playoffs the last couple years.
“So my mentality is playing it out until the last game of the season, see what happens there. If we clinch early, that’s great. But we don’t really want to look too far ahead. We got teams and games that we’ve got to take care of right now.”
While Anthony and Stoudemire likely won’t shoot like this every night, it’s hard to know what their upside is just yet because the duo is still getting to know one another.
“It’s kind of hard to say that now,” Stoudemire said when asked about the team’s postseason prospects. “It’s only been a week, week-and-half that we’ve been together.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.