Hamilton: Melo Scores 45; Shows Knicks Are Title Contenders

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NEW YORK — The last time the New York Knicks won 16 of their first 21 games, it was 1995. A gallon of gas cost $1.13, and President Bill Clinton was finishing up his first term and eyeing a second.

Now, 16 long years later, the Knicks find themselves amongst the NBA’s top teams.

Dare we start to think of them as “elite?” Their next test is Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers and former coach, Mike D’Antoni, who is suffering just like he did in his three-plus years with the Knicks. And he is already getting short-tempered.

Who ever imagined fortunes would change do differently and so drastically for both D’Antoni, and for the team he left in the capable hands of Mike Woodson, whose winning percentage is nearing 80 percent.

Just look how far the Knicks have come in the past two weeks.

Back on Nov. 26 in Brooklyn with the game tied, Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands and Gerald Wallace in front of him. Anthony rushed the potential game-winning shot, and his New York Knicks lost to the Brooklyn Nets in overtime.

Fast-forward 15 days to Tuesday night, and with the game tied and Barclays Center on its feet, Anthony’s sure-shot hands caressed the very same basketball that he’d shot 24 times (making 15) over the course of the game’s previous 47 minutes.

It was deja-vu, but Anthony was determined to only have a partial repeat of the recent past.

Anthony probably wanted nothing more than to redeem that Nov. 26 miss. But in the end, he thought better of it.

In the end, he made a winning basketball play. In front of a packed house, Carmelo Anthony—at least for one night—became the king of Brooklyn.

When it was all said and done, Anthony had turned in 45 points on 15-for-24 shooting from the field, including 5-for-7 from 3-point territory. Most impressive was the way that Anthony carried his team for most of the night. But in the end, it was his decision to pass out of a double-team that made all the difference.

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Coming into this season, Anthony talked about growing up and becoming a more complete player. Through 21 games, that’s exactly what we’ve seen.

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