Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 3/29/12
NEW YORK Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony had a message Wednesday night for injured teammates Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. "Take all the time you need getting back, guys. I've got this." Of course, 'Melo didn't actually utter those words, but the way he put the sizzling hot Knicks on his back during their 108-86 rout of the Orlando Magic spoke volumes about his confidence and his ability to take the reins when his team needs it most. Since losing Stoudemire, Lin and their 32 combined points per game to injury two games ago, Anthony has been dominant, playing like the 'Melo of old and scoring in bunches for New York (26-25), which has now won eight of its last nine games and moved above .500 for the first time since Jan. 12. In an 89-80 win over Milwaukee on Monday, Anthony poured in 28 points to go with 12 rebounds, and on Wednesday night, the All-Star scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, gathered five rebounds and dished out six assists in just 26 minutes on the floor. Before Monday, 'Melo had been held under 20 points for seven straight games, and Anthony's 53 points over the last two games are his highest two-game total since scoring 60 points in back-to-back losses to Milwaukee and Denver in mid-January. "I'm absolutely loving it," said Knicks center Tyson Chandler, who had nine points and nine rebounds Wednesday. "He's doing a great job on both ends. He's playing incredible defense for us right now, he's getting in and banging, helping me out on the glass, and we all know he can fill it up on the other end." But Anthony insists that his increased production is not a result of his co-stars being out, particularly the six-time All-Star Stoudemire. "We've been playing extremely well, guys seem to be responding pretty well, and we've been pretty locked in on our mission right now," Anthony said. "I don't think I'm doing anything more or less than when (Stoudemire) was here. I'm just playing my part, playing my position and trying to be one of the leaders on this team." However, to say that 'Melo is still the same passive, disinterested 'Melo that he was when Stoudemire and Lin were healthy would be to ignore just how exceptional he's been over the last two games. It's becoming evident that Anthony's preferred and most comfortable role is that of the undisputed go-to guy on the floor, and he thrives when he's put in a position where he has no choice but to put the team on his back. With so many injuries plaguing the New York locker room, the Knicks have needed 'Melo to be 'Melo, and he hasn't disappointed. He's done everything he's been asked by head coach Mike Woodson and more. Oh, and he's done it with a considerable injury of his own, too, playing through the ache of a nagging right groin injury a willingness to fight through pain that didn't go unnoticed by his teammates. "It definitely fires everybody up to see your star player out there sacrificing his body and playing defense and doing all the little things, the intangible things, rebounding and blocking shots," said point guard Baron Davis, who had 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists Wednesday. "It's definitely an inspiration from the guys who have the energy and have the spunk to do it." Wednesday's game was close for a while, and Orlando actually led 29-25 after one quarter. But 12-0 run late in the second quarter helped the Knicks burst open a tight game and build a 16-point lead before the half. Then Anthony scored eight of the Knicks' first 10 points to start the second half, sparking a 21-0 run that turned a 69-49 lead into an insurmountable 88-49 advantage in a matter of just five minutes. In addition to 'Melo's 25 points, rookie Iman Shumpert scored a career-high 25 of his own, Steve Novak scored 16 points and J.R. Smith scored 12. Despite being undersized, New York outrebounded the Magic 49-34, and the Knicks had just 13 turnovers Wednesday after turning the ball over 67 times in the last three games. "That to me is a sign of a good quality team that wants to win.," Woodson said. "We're trying to play for something; we're trying to get to the top of our division. My job and my staff's (job) is to continue to push them to get them to believe that they can do that." The Knicks had every reason to lose Wednesday night, and no one would have blamed them if they did. They had no Amar'e, no Lin and a gimpy 'Melo. They were playing a dangerous Orlando team, the No. 3 seed in the East, with a host of deadeye shooters and the league's most dominant big man inside. But none of it mattered. Anthony wouldn't allow it to. Sure, there's still the question of how 'Melo being 'Melo will work once his teammates are back on the court. Anthony operates the most smoothly with the ball on his hands, rarely thriving in the pick-and-roll game or as a spot-up shooter, so when Lin and Stoudemire return, it'll be interesting to see how Anthony and the Knicks adjust. But for now, the onus is still on Anthony to get the job done and keep the Knicks on their upward trend and that's just how he likes it. He was vintage 'Melo Wednesday night, and while that may not be what the Knicks will need later, it's perfect right now. "Times like this is always fun time, right before the playoffs, (and) guys have to step up their game," Anthony said. "It's fun time, games like tonight, games like Milwaukee, (and) we're going to have a lot more games like that down the stretch. Why not want to play those basketball games?" Follow Sam Gardner on Twitter: @sam_gardner
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