STAR PLAYER: Anthony
WHILE TRADITIONALLY basketball is not the most popular of sports in Britain, 18,689 fans ignored the impending freezing conditions to witness New York Knicks defeat Detroit Pistons 102-87 at The O2 Arena in London.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony netted the most points, 26, as the Pistons were unable to match the opposition’s work rate and accuracy.
Footballers past and present - including Patrick Vieira, Tim Howard, Bacary Sagna, Ryan Bertrand, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole (who was resoundingly booed) to name a few – and celebrities such as rappers Wretch 32, Chip, Tinie Tempah and Tinchy Stryder respectively – were all in attendance.
And of course, no Knicks game would be complete without the courtside presence of their biggest fan, acclaimed director Spike Lee.
But the biggest stars were on the court as Anthony and experienced team-mate Amar’e Stoudemire, who netted 17 points, at times terrorised a hapless Pistons defence.
Following a soulful rendition of God Save the Queen by pop singer Alexandra Burke, the action was underway and the fans were greeted to their first slam dunk courtesy of the 7’, 1” tall London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Tyson Chandler.
Anthony shortly afterwards converted the first three pointer of the game and the Knicks soon raced into an emphatic 13-2 lead, forcing Pistons coach Lawrence Frank to call a time out.
The Pistons missed several of their free throws, only converting 50 per cent.
However, they did offer resistance in the shape from the smallest player on the court, the 6’,0” Will Bynum, who used his size to his advantage by out manoeuvring the taller players with his speed and low centre of gravity. Bynum ended the game as Detroit’s top points scorer, totalling 22.
Nevertheless it was the Knicks who ended the first quarter 29-17 in front thanks to their rapid start.
In the second period it was more of the same from the Knicks, as Stoudemire and JR Smith tallied eight points each while Anthony added seven to maintain the pressure on the Pistons.
A forceful foul on Chandler, who was clattered into while attempting to convert a lay up, brought an abrupt, yet brief end to the action.
After the play was reviewed by the video referee, Chandler dusted himself off to net both his free throws to increase the lead to 41-24. The score at half-time saw the Knicks comfortably in front with 56-41.
Singer Misha B headlined the half-time entertainment and the the action resumed shortly afterwards with the Pistons slowly chipping away at the Knick’s lead in the third quarter.
Bynum and Tayshaun Prince combined on numerous occasions and at one point their team miraculously managed to closed the gap to the Knicks to five points, making the score 66-61.
The Knicks’ tempo and accuracy had considerably dropped as their three point conversion rate dipped from 42.9 per cent in the previous quarter to just 33.3 per cent.
Although they began to falter, the Knicks managed to relieve the pressure as the third quarter ended 75-63 with them in the lead.
Prince hit a two pointer for the Pistona to begin the fourth and final quarter but it was the Knicks who confirmed their dominance as Steve Novak hit three-three pointers.
This helped increase the total of their lead to 14 as they led 92-75 with just over three minutes remaining.
Kyle Singler converted a three pointer for the Pistons with two seconds to spare to make it 102-87 but it was the team from The Big Apple who went home knowing that they had both thoroughly entertained the London audience and, more importantly, defeated their East Conference rivals to maintain their push for a play-off place.