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Knicks don't always want to be Carmelo-centric at crunch time

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots the jumper in the second half of the game on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015 at Madison Square Garden. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Traditionally, the Knicks' strategy in a close fourth quarter has been pretty simple: Give the ball to Carmelo Anthony and have everyone else get out of the way.

But one go-to star, as we all witnessed in 2014-15 during a 17-win season, doesn't make for much of a team. So the Knicks have been looking for others to step up late in a game and make the kind of plays needed to take some pressure off Anthony.

When that happens, as it did Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Knicks can hold off an opponent's charge and hang on for a win. And when it doesn't? You have Anthony going 1-for-6 in the final quarter of Friday night's loss to Cleveland.

"We let Carmelo do all the stuff most of the time," rookie Kristaps Porzingis said on Monday. "He gets the ball and it makes it easier for us. When it's the moment, all eyes are on him and he's under pressure. He needs us to be able to make plays, too. That fourth quarter, everyone has to be ready and execute under pressure."

Last Wednesday in Charlotte, Porzingis wound up being the crunch-time alternative. With less than a second left and the Hornets leading 95-93, the Knicks ran a half-court inbounds play in which Porzingis was supposed to set a screen for Anthony to take a three-pointer. But Porzingis wound up with the ball at the top of the key for a potential game-winning three-pointer. Porzingis buried it -- but officials ruled he had not beaten the buzzer.

The Knicks (5-6) play Charlotte (5-5) again Tuesday night, this time at Madison Square Garden, as they attempt to win their second straight game at home.

"It's better to have a closer than not," coach Derek Fisher said. "I think Melo can be a great closer for us, but there has to be a balance to the offense. I don't think that's just a goal of ours . . . We want to be a team that has options down the stretch."

It's not only budding big-time players such as Porzingis whom the Knicks need to have step up late in games. Guard Langston Galloway had a big game against New Orleans on Sunday, scoring 15 points, shooting 5-for-6 and coming up with a big steal down the stretch that helped keep the game under control.

Said Galloway: "[The victory over the Pelicans] was huge for us trying to get back on track. Now we have to build on that momentum."


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