You might think the Knicks-Hawks four-overtime affair on Sunday, which ended in a heartbreaking 142-139 loss for the Knicks, was an exceptional game. It wasn't. Yes, it was just the 10th game in NBA history to go to at least quadruple-overtime, but it wasn't close to the highest scoring game in NBA history. And it won't go down as an instant classic, either. The Hawks won the fourth overtime with a 94.1 offensive rating, which is abysmal.
Both teams played hard, but man, they didn't play well. The Hawks managed to outlast the Knicks based on Carmelo Anthony fouling out after scoring 45 points, Dennis Schröder making a few tough layups and Paul Millsap coming up with a huge offensive rebound and putback late. Millsap wound up with 37 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists after playing an insane 60 minutes. That ties Millsap for the 8th most single-game minutes since 1984.
Still, Anthony was the story -- his 45 points coming on a barrage of tough shots, the kind of buckets he's made his career on. Anthony was 8-of-15 from the five minute mark of the 4th quarter through his fouling out in triple-overtime, scoring 17 points and constantly answering every push from the Hawks.
He had help, as everyone contributed for the Knicks to keep them in it from Justin Holiday to Brandon Jennings, and especially Courtney Lee who hit this at the buzzer.
But of course, it wasn't enough. In typical Melo fashion, he had just five points on 2-of-5 shooting in the 3rd quarter as the Knicks threw away a 10-point second-quarter lead. One minute he disappears, the next minute he's blazing a trail of buckets that are literally unguardable. It was a great performance, overall, in a loss. Which kind of defines Anthony's career with the Knicks.
Anthony has been notably playing hard lately. Not just well; he typically plays well, at least in terms of his standards of getting buckets. But he's been really busting himself of late. He smothered Paul Millsap on the shot to try and win it in regulation, and made several hustle plays. On the shot to force overtime, he didn't settle for a mid-range jumper but instead went right at Millsap.
So Anthony is giving it his all, even while the Knicks continue to engage teams to try and construct a trade for the franchise icon. If that sounds familiar, someone noted this on Sunday:
In his last five games with the Knicks, he's averaging 30 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. And yet in his 194 minutes across those games the Knicks have been outscored by 16 points and are 2-3.
Maybe he's trying to showcase himself for Doc Rivers and the Clippers. Maybe he's trying to show Phil Jackson what he's made of. But more likely, Anthony's doing the only thing he knows how to do, get buckets through his stress. Anthony has a no-trade clause, ultimately the decision rests with him. But if the Knicks decide they want him gone, he won't force them to be stuck with him. He's made that clear. So he's doing what he can, trying to turn the Knicks' season around with what he can do, scoring, and if this is his last week in New York, at least he can say he went out giving his best effort.
So ultimately, the numbers were there, the big shots were there, the vanishing act was there, the clutch performance was there, the loss was there, and the frustration was there, all in a four-overtime game that seemed like an extraordinary moment in this Knicks season and yet, ultimately, seemed far too familiar for comfort.