NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Carmelo Anthony shot his way past Kobe Bryant, Bernard King and Kevin Durant, and he pulled off one more impressive achievement.
He brought smiles to the New York Knicks in a miserable season.
Anthony scored a career-high 62 points to break the franchise and current Madison Square Garden records, and the Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats 125-96 on Friday night to stop a five-game losing streak.
Facing daily questions about the Knicks’ miserable present and his own uncertain future, Anthony not only seized an MSG record, but gave the building back some life.
And when Anthony threw in a shot from midcourt at the halftime buzzer, Amar’e Stoudemire laughed hysterically in his suit jacket from the bench, the rest of his teammates standing and roaring.
“Just to see everybody smiling once again, that’s what I was more excited to see,” Anthony said. “Guys on the bench smiling, high-fiving, having fun once again, that’s the only thing I care about.”
The records were great, too.
Anthony made 23 of 35 shots and even added 13 rebounds in the NBA’s highest-scoring performance this season.
Anthony had 56 after three quarters, bettering Durant’s previous season high of 54, and stayed in for the first few minutes of the fourth to break King’s Knicks record of 60 set in 1984 and Bryant’s arena record of 61 set five years ago.
“I made history tonight, with the performance, but just to be a part of that group of people, like I said, there’s only a small group of people that knows what that zone feels like and tonight I was one of them,” Anthony said.
It was easily the highlight of the season for Anthony, on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time in his career and facing frequent questions about his future with the team as he heads into free agency this summer.
He easily passed his previous career best of 50 points and possibly could’ve even passed 70 or more had the game been close. Instead, he checked out for good after breaking the records when he banked in a short jumper with 7:24 to play.
“I’ve seen him score a lot of points, but that was some performance right there,” said J.R. Smith, who was also a teammate of Anthony’s in Denver.
Smith noticed a different focus from Anthony before the game, a seriousness replacing the usual laughter. Perhaps some of it was some added pregame motivation after the team watched a video featuring Muhammad Ali, one of Anthony’s favorite athletes.
With the Knicks desperately thin in the frontcourt after losing Andrea Bargnani on top of the injuries to Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin, Anthony simply took on more of the scoring load as New York won for the first time on its eight-game homestand after dropping the first three.
King, elected to the Hall of Fame last year, said he was proud of Anthony, whom he considers one of the best players in the game.
“If anyone was to break my Knicks record that I have held for so long, I’m absolutely delighted that it was Carmelo,” King said through the team’s public relations department.
Al Jefferson had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats, snapping his streak of four straight 20-10 games. Charlotte had won two in a row, holding division leaders Toronto and the Los Angeles Clippers to an average of 93 points.
But the Knicks, who had lost to the Bobcats 10 days ago to start their current skid, shot 56 percent. So what happened to Charlotte’s defense?
“Melo. Enough said,” Jefferson said.
Anthony made 20 of his first 26 shots against what had been a good defensive team, but there was no defense for the zone Anthony was in.
“When he’s in one of those zones, ain’t nothing nobody can do about it,” Jefferson added.
Last season’s scoring champion had eight points in the first 2½ minutes, went 8 of 10 in the first quarter and had 20 points as the Knicks led 30-21. He skipped his usual break and kept playing deep into the second quarter before finally taking a seat with 4:34 left, shortly after missing an open jumper.
He returned with 2½ minutes left to finish the half in style, throwing in a buzzer beater from just inside halfcourt to cap his 15-of-21 half and make it 67-46.
Turned out Anthony was just getting started.
He made his first five shots in the second half and the Bobcats would eventually grow frustrated, picking up two technical fouls on one play after Anthony’s 3-pointer late in the third.
He made both free throws, part of his 10-for-10 showing at the line, and said he tried to check himself out earlier but his teammates wouldn’t allow it.
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