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Stoudemire’s late block keys Knicks comeback victory over Heat

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These guys weren’t supposed to be able to play defense, right?  Amare Stoudemire and New York Knicks’ newly-acquired All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony may not be known around the league for their prowess on the defensive side of the ball, but all it took was one key play in the closing moments of New York’s impressive 91-86 come-from-behind victory over the confident Heat Sunday night to dispel what we thought we knew about the other Eastern Conference new 3-man super group.

The Heat looked confident and in control early boosting their lead to as many as 15 points in the first half of play only to let Carmelo Anthony will his new squad back to a one-point lead at halftime after assisting Knicks’ reserve forward Bill Walker on a miraculous buzzer-beating 3-point bank shot .

From that point on LeBron and superfriends were mired in a physical exciting battle that rekindled visions of past Knicks-Heat playoff clashes of the 90’s.

The so-called defensively challenged Knicks forced the NBA’s ninth-highest scoring offense into just 38.8% shooting from the field and 26.7% shooting from three hitting just 8 of 30 from deep on the night.  After allowing Miami to reel off a dominating 34 first-quarter points, D’Antoni’s boys buckled down and allowed just 52 points the rest of the way.

Although Carmelo was wonderfully aggressive throughout the contest for the Knicks, it was the other two members of the NBA’s newest super-trio that stole the show.

Stoudemire may ultimately deserve the game ball for closing the deal with a huge block on LeBron James at the rim with 7 seconds remaining. But it was Chauncey Billups who did what he’s been doing since his days with the Pistons hitting big shot after big shot leading his ball club with a command and calmness rivaled by no other lead guard in our beloved NBA today.

The two marquee stars definitely came to play Sunday night giving the ESPN faithful an exciting and competitive show with James tallying 27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals while Melo matched his old friend with an aggressive 29 points and 9 rebounds on 10 of 22 shots.

However, this game may have come down to two distinct aspects of New York’s new look not present before the trade deadline.

Those two aspects are unparalleled talent and veteran leadership.

Melo, although guilty of taking a couple of questionable shots, was ultra-aggressive on offense and defense from the start; surprisingly even requesting to guard LeBron one-on-one in the second half.

Carmelo exudes confidence and will; and that same desire to win was readily apparent and visible to all those watching him go at his old friend on Sunday, which he did so admirably especially on the defensive end.

In terms of veteran leadership after Sunday’s impressive performance it’s safe to say that the addition of Billups in the deal was more than just a subplot.  Billups ability to direct his teammates and still make huge shots at the end of ball games may be unmatched by any player at the point guard position today – an aspect of this landmark deal that was definitely overlooked based on the immense scale of Melo’s arrival in New York.

Sunday he was at it again hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer from well beyond the stripe with just a minute remaining, ultimately pushing the Knicks to a huge victory over the Heat, on the road seemingly oblivious to the angst present in that moment.

Billups finished with 16 points on 5 of 11 shooting and 3 of 7 from three.  However his overall value moving forward to this new-look Knicks team cannot truly be measured in numbers.  He is the engine, the steady force New York will surely rely upon as they attempt to confidently march into the playoffs.

Beating Miami Sunday will definitely do wonders for the Knicks’ confidence, however there is still much work to be done as they currently sit uncomfortably at 6th place in the Eastern Conference Standings heading into their next contest on the road against the surging Orlando Magic Tuesday night.

Stoudemire finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds and one huge block on James in the final moments.  Heat forward Chris Bosh tallied 20 points, 12 rebounds and 2 steals while teammate Dwyane Wade added 12 points on just 5 of 15 shooting in a subpar effort for the league’s 4th leading scorer.

Seldom-used “throw-in” from the Carmelo/Billups trade, Anthony Carter, was key in forcing Wade into a lackluster performance Sunday night.  In 19 key minutes off the bench the 35 year-old ,11-year vet hounded Wade relentlessly forcing the All-Star guard into a game-high 5 turnovers.

Box Score

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