The Knicks’ 102-92 win against the Heat on national television on Thursday night was a close up shot of Carmelo Anthony’s complexity as a player.
In the first half Anthony took 16 of New York’s 42 shots – 36 percent of them, in case you like Darren Rovell math. He was 6-16 with 13 points, six rebounds, one assist and two steals. The effort was there defensively, as he spent much of his 19 minutes on the court chasing LeBron James around, except where there were screens and he didn’t feel like maneuvering around them
Out of the 16 first half attempts, eight of them would at least be loosely described as a wing iso. There’s some slight differentiation, but they all involved holding the ball before shooting and not being decisive. There were some positive results along with the negative; still the style of play was not conducive to the Knicks producing at a high level offensively. To be fair, there are times when Melo gets really hot that he can get away with playing like this, it wasn’t one of those nights.
Anthony also attempted two late shock clock chucks when he didn’t have any other option, three in transition and three catch and shoots.
It was “narrative Melo,” the selfish player who doesn’t make those around him better. The statement would be partially true, he played poor offensive basketball, yet the effort on the defensive end wouldn’t fit that script.
Before halftime the Knicks’ offensive efficiency was a 92.8 and they trailed 48-43.
In the second half, superstar Carmelo Anthony made an appearance.
How he played for these 23 minutes is why I defend him as a player. I know this identity exits, and it shows up a lot more than people who attack him believe, or they choose to not acknowledge.
On his first six shot attempts he took zero dribbles combined. Five of the attempts were catch and shoot and the other was in transition. Melo worked quickly and with precision, adding in four assists and another two rebounds. He was 3-5 from behind the arc after going 0-3 in the opening two quarters.
Anthony took eight of the team’s 38 shots, 21%, 15% lower than he did compared to the first half.
New York’s offensive efficiency jumped all the way up to 147.2 for quarters three and four.
Along with Melo’s willingness to play as a finisher instead of trying to create for himself, Ray Felton’s ability to penetrate a defense, forcing it to collapse on the lane, was essential.
Since returning to the lineup Felton has assisted on five of Anthony’s nine three-point hits in the last two games.
Despite popular belief, Anthony is very willing to take on an off-the-ball role. According to the SportVU tracking data Felton has the ball for 5.5 minutes per game, Anthony comes in at 3.3 minutes.
A point guard, who over the course of a season usually averages out to somewhere in the range of slightly below average, average or slightly above average can help turn Anthony into one of the most lethal, efficient scoring machines in the game. Can we take a second and think about what pairing Melo with an above average point guard or a superstar could do?
The key to unlocking Anthony at his best more consistently is the ability to find a higher caliber PG to pair with him. I don’t know who or how this player can be acquired, its going to take quite a bit of creativity through a trade or waiting it out until the cap space comes available in 2015.
To help nudge Melo down the right path for his career this is a necessary step that needs to be taken.