Carmelo Anthony Returns
On the heels of a 1-4 road trip riddled with injuries, Carmelo Anthony made his triumphant return to the court at home against the Magic on Wednesday. Unfortunately the news of his return also came with word that Kurt Thomas had broken his foot and Tyson Chandler would be out even longer than originally expected due to a bulging disk in his spine. Chandler will not return for at least a week, and Thomas’ season may be over.
Fortunately for Anthony, he had a relatively unthreatening opponent to ease back into the game with. The Knicks already beat the Magic three times this season, and got off to a 26-15 start in the first quarter this time around. The lead diminished in the second period, but New York still commanded Orlando 51-46 at halftime. They piled another 13 points onto that spread in the third, ultimately paving the way to a 106-94 victory and clean sweep of the Magic this season.
Anthony’s 21 points did not outshine the rest of the floor in his first game back from having fluid drained from his right knee, however. JR Smith’s 22 from the bench actually had that honor, though Melo’s 8 rebounds did slightly outnumber Smith’s 7. Kenyon Martin and Steve Novak also scored in double-digits with 11 apiece.
Carmelo saw a further return to form last night in Toronto. The Knicks lost their first two of four games against the Raptors this season, but led 50-37 at the half by virtue of a ten point spread in the second. Toronto came alive after the break, outscoring New York 34-27 in the third and bringing the score to 84-82 late in the fourth.
Having let what was at one point a 15 point game close within 2, New York went on a 10-2 run and put the game out of reach for the Raptors. It ended in a 99-94 victory for the Knicks, which in turn cemented a spot in the NBA postseason for them.
Melo lead the game with 37 points on top of his six rebounds, and Martin picked up a season high double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Smith led the bench with 14.
The Knicks will bring the Raptors home with them, playing their second game in as many nights as they try to tie the season series tonight at 7:30.
Nets Begin Long Road Trip
The Nets will be carrying an eight-game road trip into the month of April, but have fared quite well on the perilous late-season journey thus far. After routing the Pistons with great ease, Brooklyn had an equally impressive showing over Dallas this week.
Wednesday’s game got off to a rough start for the Nets—the Mavericks led 32-22 after the first quarter—but Brooklyn battled back in the second. Following several lead changes, the Mavs and Nets were tied at 51 entering the half. A few minutes into the third, the game saw its final lead change when a three from Deron Williams put Brooklyn up 61-59; Brooklyn went on to outscore Dallas by 8 in the third and 9 in the fourth for a final of 113-96.
Brook Lopez had a season-high 38 points and 11 rebounds, combining with Texas native Deron Williams’ 31 points to account for more than half of their team’s scoring. Andre Blatche finished with 14, and Reggie Evans grabbed 22 rebounds.
As strong as the Nets have looked over the past two games, they’ll likely have to play even better if they hope to make the most out of this road trip. They play the Clippers at 10:30 tonight.
Islanders Falter in Third Period
Tuesday’s game against Ottawa began innocuously enough; the Senators scored first, but Aucoin tied things up with a goal late in the first period. New York even established a commanding lead when Bailey put them up 2-1 not 15 seconds into the second period and Visnovsky added a third goal eleven minutes later.
Despite holding Ottawa scoreless in the second, the Islanders saw their lead quickly fade away in the final period. A pair of goals in the first 2 minutes and 15 seconds had the game tied again at 3. That score held for most of the time remaining, and a fourth goal put Ottawa on top once more. With little alternative, the Islanders took their goalie out in hopes of being able to force overtime, but instead suffered an empty-netter that put them down 5-3. Nabokov stopped 18 of 22 shots before being pulled for the last 46 seconds.
Thursday’s match against the Canadiens did not go any better. Tavares put New York on the scoreboard with a goal midway through the first, and Visnovsky gave them a 2-1 lead early in the second. The score was tied by Montréal’s Subban four minutes later, where it remained for the rest of the second.
Unfortunately, the Islanders still had to play the third period after that, which continued to be a major sticking point for the team. They went down 3-2 before a minute had passed, and allowed two more goals within 33 seconds of each other ten minutes later. New York had no answer, and lost 5-2. Poulin stopped 24 of 29 shots.
Last night the Islanders found themselves on top of the division-leading Penguins for just over 20 minutes following a Streit goal nearly 8 minutes into the first period. The 1-0 lead held until Vitale tied the game 8:11 into the second. Bailey put the Islanders back up 9 minutes later, but Pittsburgh brought the game to 2-2 fourteen seconds before the period’s end.
Once again, New York entered the third with a legitimate opportunity to win a game, and once again the team fell well short. An early Penguins goal gave Pittsburgh its first lead of the night and went unanswered through the remainder of the period. Lacking alternatives, the Islanders emptied the net only for the risky play to backfire once more , putting them down 4-2 on a Dupuis goal with only one second to go. Nabokov stopped 21 of 24 before leaving the game.
The Islanders will try to recover from a week of losses when they host the Panthers tomorrow night at 5 o’clock.
Rangers Pass Devils, Briefly
Almost all of the scoring in the Rangers’ meeting with the Devils occurred within a six minute cluster beginning midway through the first period. Del Zotto opened things up 11:49 into the game to give New York a lead which would last slightly over three minutes. Zajac tied the game briefly before Hagelin put the Rangers back up 2-1. That lead was equally brief, as Jersey brought the game to a 2-2 tie 17:13 into the period.
That score did last for about ten minutes, but Nash broke the draw to give New York a 3-2 lead 7:25 into the second. The score would hold as the Rangers buckled down defensively and Lundqvist ultimately allowed only 2 of 31 shots to slip past him.
With that win, the Rangers passed the Devils for second place in the Atlantic division and eighth overall in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. The celebration would not last long, however, as the team crumbled before the 30th place Florida Panthers on Thursday.
While the Rangers were held scoreless for most of the game, Florida scored once in each period. Gaborik managed to finally put New York on the scoreboard 16 minutes into the third period and cut the Panthers’ lead to 2-1. A hooking call in the final minute gave the Rangers a golden opportunity to force overtime with a late-game power play; they added to that advantage by pulling Lundqvist in favor of a sixth attacker.
Despite the 6-4 advantage, they could not muster a second goal. Instead, Florida picked up their third on an empty netter from across the ice to win 3-1.
Perhaps the hardest part of this loss was not the fact that it put the Rangers back under the Devils after just having passed them in the standings, but that while Lundqvist stopped 21 of 23 shots the rest of the team could only score once out of 45 shots on goal.
The Rangers play the Capitals next, tomorrow at 7:00 PM.