Exceptions can be found to most rules. Whether or not the exception actually proves the rule in every situation can be up for debate, and there is no reason to think the New York Knicks' 98-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans serves to prove that their fourth-quarter struggles are an ingrained part of their identity, but the win certainly does draw attention to the rarity of this kind of result for the team.
If the Knicks were a team that was adept at closing out fourth quarters in a respectable fashion, there would be no reason to think of their latest win as anything more than business as usual. However, that is not how the Knicks have operated frequently so any time the Knicks actually do play well enough in the fourth quarter to win a contest, it is an incredibly noteworthy event.
Coincidentally, despite using the last 12 minutes of Wednesday's game to preserve a rare victory for the team, the Knicks were still outscored by the Pelicans in the final quarter, albeit by just one point. Based on some of their previous fourth-quarter performances, though, being outscored by just one point was quite the achievement, especially once their slim loss of the fourth quarter was paired with an eight-point lead to start the quarter.
Usually, no fourth-quarter lead would have been safe in the hands of the Knicks and defensive bumbling would have allowed the Pelicans to not only overcome the eight-point deficit, but to eventually forge ahead and snatch the victory away from the Knicks' butter fingers.
The first part of that scenario did occur as the Pelicans were able to take a one-point lead with 3:58 remaining in the contest, but then something completely unforeseen took place. Instead of allowing the Pelicans to continue to pour in points while offering only a semblance of resistance, the Knicks tightened up their defense, displaying a resilience too little seen from the club. For the rest of the game, the Pelicans only scored on one of their final six possessions.
Conversely, the Knicks had little difficulties scoring over the last four minutes of the final quarter, finally getting to experience the joy of filling the role of the team that does not falter in the latter stages of a game. Five of the last six offensive possessions for the Knicks ended with the ball going through the basket, with Anthony leading the offensive charge as he scored eight points after the Pelicans took their one-point lead.
Anthony's offensive brilliance was not just limited to the fourth quarter, though; what he did to propel the Knicks to victory in the fourth quarter he also did to put the Knicks in a position where they could even think of adding another game to their win column. He finished the game with 42 points on 29 field goal attempts and 12 field throw attempts, producing 123 points per 100 possessions for the Knicks.
Anthony was joined among the double-digit scoring ranks by two of his teammates, by J.R. Smith (19 points) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (16 points). In all, those three players accounted for 78.6 percent of the Knicks' scoring, getting little scoring help from the five other Knicks who took the court on Wednesday.
The unbalanced scoring did not prevent the Knicks from continuing to play exceptional offensive basketball, however; for the game, the Knicks were able to score at an above-average rate as evidenced by their 115.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Knicks' win on Wednesday does not completely eradicate their overarching fourth-quarter struggles, but it does show that on rare occasions the Knicks will be able to play well in the fourth quarter. Therefore, there is no reason to get too disheartened when the team loses three or four straight since they will occasionally break up their losing streaks by winning a game here or there. Such is the lowered expectation surrounding the Knicks.