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 — If the Lakers are smart on Tuesday, they’ll pump heavy doses of “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” into the Staples Center when the Knicks come calling.
Because Carmelo Anthony says Christmas music puts his team to sleep.
The folks at Madison Square Garden pumped Christmas tunes into the building on a sleepy Sunday evening, and the Knicks trailed virtually the entire game before Anthony awoke from his slumber to dominate the final four minutes of the game against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves.
Despite picking up his fifth foul late in the fourth quarter, Anthony scored 12 straight Knicks points in the final four minutes as New York rallied to beat the Wolves, 94-91, behind a game-best 33 points from Anthony. “MVP” chants reigned down on Melo as he went a perfect 7-for-7 from the line in the final 1 minute, 13 seconds.
He let out a huge scream after making a three-point play on a driving layup and foul shot that put the Knicks up 88-86 after they trailed for virtually the entire night. Just before that, he hit a 3-pointer to pull the Knicks within 86-85.
“Yeah, it was kind of dead a little bit,” Anthony said. “I think the music at halftime they was playing, the Christmas carols kind of put us to sleep a little bit. But we bounced back, the crowd got into it. We made some shots, we got some stops and we fed off the crowd tonight. When they get going, the Garden gets rocking.”
The Knicks ended their six-game homestand with a win to improve to 20-7 and 12-2 at home. They headed out on a flight to Los Angeles Sunday night to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers (13-14) on Christmas Day in the first game of a three-game road swing.
“It’s a big game, big game for us, big game for the league, big game for basketball, period,” Anthony said. “If we don’t get excited for this game, then I don’t know what game we should get excited for. What better game kicking off Christmas? You know, big game in L.A. against the Lakers, so we should be excited for that.”
When told it was the first time in 40-something years that the top two scorers in the league — Kobe and Melo — will face each other on Christmas, Melo said: “I don’t look at it like that.
“We want to win. That’s our first game on that road trip. but what makes it so much more meaningful, it’s a Christmas game in L.A. Knicks-Lakers, it don’t get better than that.”
The Knicks handled the Lakers, 116-107, on Dec. 13 in New York in a game in which Anthony sprained his left ankle in the third quarter but not before he went off for 22 of his 30 points in the first quarter in Mike D’Antoni’s return to the Big Apple.
He then missed two games before returning to drop 31 in a win over the Brooklyn Nets Dec. 19.
Since then, Steve Nash has returned for the Lakers, winners of four straight. But Bryant took 41 shots to get 34 points in Saturday’s 118-115 overtime victory over Golden State.
“I haven’t seen them play yet [with Nash],” Anthony said. “I haven’t seen any clips on them since them guys [Nash and Pau Gasol] came back. [Monday] we’ll see what they’re about.”
Whatever happens, Melo probably doesn’t want to hear much Christmas music on Tuesday.
“I love Christmas music,” he said with a laugh after the game. “But it was just the time of the game. We was down, we didn’t have no energy. And then they threw the chestnuts are roasting on the fire.”
**For Video, Notes & Quotes on the game, read my NBA.com Notebook here.
Photo: Daily News
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.