Everyone in the building, including all five Minnesota Timberwolves on the floor, knew exactly where the ball was going with the New York Knicks down one with 1:20 play: right in Carmelo Anthony's hands.
But that didn't mean Minnesota could do much to stop Anthony.
These days, not many teams can.
Anthony converted a layup after taking contact from Andrei Kirilenko to give the Knicks their first lead in more than 45 minutes.
New York held on in the final minute and managed to walk off the floor with a win on Sunday night.
"That was kind of an MVP performance at the end," Mike Woodson said of Anthony's play in the final minutes. "He stepped up and he made the plays."
With the win, the Knicks finished their six-game homestand at 4-2 and will carry a 20-7 record into their Christmas Day showdown with the Lakers.
"This was a game we had to get," Woodson said.
For a while though, it looked like one that was out of the Knicks' grasp.
Maybe it was the rare 5 p.m. tipoff, but New York was extremely sluggish to start the game.
Anthony missed 12 of his first 17 shots and the Knicks clanked 19 of their first 23 threes. They were down 11 midway through the third quarter.
"I don't think I had it in the first half. The energy wasn't there," said Anthony, who had nine points on 3-for-11 shooting at the half. "The momentum, legs, fatigue was setting in."
Something changed late in the third. And it started on the defensive end.
The Knicks held Minnesota to 18 points in the quarter and cut an 11-point deficit to two entering the fourth.
Then, Anthony took over.
He had 19 of his game-high 33 in the fourth and helped the Knicks remain relatively calm through some rough moments down the stretch -- something they weren't able to do Friday night against the Bulls, when Anthony, Mike Woodson and Tyson Chandler were ejected.
"We just stayed calm and stayed the course," Jason Kidd said.
They also kept getting the ball to Anthony.
He had eight straight points down the stretch and scored the final 12 for the Knicks.
But it wasn't perfect, by any stretch.
With the Knicks down three and 5:19 to play, Anthony was whistled for an offensive foul, turned the ball over and was called for a questionable foul on a blockout of Minnesota big man Nikola Pekovic over a two-minute stretch.
Woodson was whistled for a technical on the play, but Anthony kept his head.
On the Knicks' next possession, J.R. Smith found Anthony wide open for a 3-pointer that pulled the Knicks within one with 1:53 to play.
He then converted the layup and free throw after the Kirilenko foul the give the Knicks a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"That's what he's been doing all year, man," Raymond Felton said. "Right now, he's my MVP. I think he should be everybody else's MVP the way he's playing. He's really leading us, especially when we need him."
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