MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- "I do this!"
Those were the three words Carmelo Anthony yelled to the Memphis Grizzlies' bench as the final buzzer sounded, Anthony reveling in the glory of hitting his first game-winning shot as a member of the New York Knicks.
Trash talk had been hurled Anthony's way as the ball was in the air, but the final words were his.
"Yeah, man, they were just yelling: 'That [shot] is off. It's off, it's off,'" Anthony recounted after sinking a 16-foot jumper with 0.5 seconds left that allowed the New York Knicks to eke out a 110-108 victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
As Anthony was mouthing those three words, Tony Allen of the Grizzlies was staring at him with a look of admiration on his face, nodding his head at Anthony in a gesture of respect.
This was the type of game-closing play the Knicks knew they would be getting when they set their sights on acquiring Anthony, and he did what the best closers in the game do.
The Knicks might not have needed Anthony's shot if they had played as well in the fourth quarter as they had in the first three periods. But they allowed Memphis to get back into the game with an 8-0 run early in the fourth, then tie it with a 10-0 run late in the period, ending on Zach Randolph's three-point play with 14.2 seconds remaining after he was fouled in the paint by Anthony.
Coach Mike D'Antoni eschewed calling a timeout after Randolph's free throw tied it, instead electing to let the Knicks go for the win immediately.
"I don't like to do that," D'Antoni said of calling a timeout. "That gives them a chance to put all their good defensive players in. It gives them a chance to talk about what's going on. That's too much stuff.
"We've got guys that know how to play, and when we call a timeout and put the ball in Melo's hands, it's like: 'Duh.' That's where it's going to go. We knew it, and we got it done," D'Antoni said.
So the buzz back in New York will only be louder now for the Knicks, who kick off a 19-game stretch to close the season. It was a quality victory against a formidable opponent that has surged over the second half of the season, including recent victories over Oklahoma City and Dallas, to put itself squarely into the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
Anthony is one of the NBA's best closers, and this was the first time he did what he does so well with the words "New York" on his chest.
"I just got here, and for me to hit a game winner like that in a building like this against a team like that, knowing their situation playing for that spot in the West, and they've been beating a lot of good playoff teams. And for me to hit that shot, it lets my teammates know that they can have confidence in me to make that shot," Anthony said.
The final bucket gave Anthony 31 points on a night when the Knicks got 26 from Amare Stoudemire, 18 points and a career-high 10 assists from Toney Douglas in another start for Chauncey Billups (bruised quad), and 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from Landry Fields in his most solid game since the big trade went down last month.
The Knicks won despite going to the free throw line only four times compared to the Grizzlies' 35, their 12 3-pointers and their potent third-quarter surge providing the fuel and the separation they needed to withstand what could have gone down as a fourth-quarter meltdown.
"Tough shot; I should have forced him middle. He hit a tough shot, but I got a contested hand in on it, and he hit a tough shot," Allen said. "I congratulate him. Tough shot. We play them again next week, and I'm looking forward to that.
"But that's Carmelo Anthony, and I'm out there competing, and he hit a tough shot," Allen said. "Good D, better O."
Until Anthony made his game winner, the Knicks had not scored a point in more than three minutes. Anthony had a chance to give the Knicks a five-point lead when he stole the ball from Darrell Arthur with 39 seconds left, but he missed a jumper with 21 seconds remaining and the Grizzlies quickly went to their go-to guy in the low post.
The fact that Anthony fouled Randolph on the play only made him hungrier to redeem himself.
And so the final play ensued ...
"It was supposed to be a pick-and-roll, and Toney brought it up and kicked it to me, then me and Amare were in a pick-and-roll but they overplayed it and denied Amare," Anthony said. "I got open, got away from Tony a little bit. He had been guarding me close-up the whole night, so I just wanted to get a little bit of space where I could see the basket. So I made a move, a jab move, got a little bit of space, just pulled up and shot it in."
Did he know it was good?
"When it left my hand, yeah, yeah. It was just one of those shots that you know was going to go in," Anthony said. "That particular one felt really good."
As Anthony said, he does that.