Brian DiMennaFor anyone who watched the Knicks surge to the end of the season, most of these playoffs have been somewhat disorienting. The offensive juggernaut we saw blitz the league for the final month gave way to a slower, staler, less effective Knicks offense.
This was especially true for Carmelo Anthony, though I’d argue his problems were less in decision making and more the simpler inability to hit shots, it’s still true that Anthony had played in such a way as though eager to give his most boisterous critics as much ammunition as they could conceivably require. His 10-for-28 Game 1 performance against Indiana was basically every Melo-haters idea of a typical Anthony performance, while the rest of us look to last night as the guy we’ve been watching all season.
What I found most frustrating prior to Tuesday’s demolition, was the steady snarking about Carmelo’s lack of assists, something I see as mostly a non-sequiter. In a game Tuesday night where no one found fault with how he played, he still managed only three assists. That’s just not his game, nor do the Knicks put him in position to be a guy to get a lot of assists. Anthony scores either in post-ups and isolation, or in the catch and shoot. When he gets it in the post, or isolated on the wing, his job is to try and score. You know, because he does so better than almost anyone alive.
If he can’t get a good shot, or a double team comes, he kicks the ball out and the Knicks run something else. The only real complaint to any of this is that sometimes this process takes too long, as in Anthony spends a few extra seconds lost in a jab-step, pump-fake river dance that stops the ball, or he simply forces a shot when it might not be wise to do so. These are, yes, legitimate flaws in his game. It does not, however, wipe out every other absolutely incredible thing he brings to the court. The reaction to Anthony taking a bit too long to size up a defender does not always need to be, “SEE! HE’S A LOSER!!!!”
Which is what made the second half of Game 2 such a joy to watch, as we finally got to see the guy we’d been watching all of April show up for these playoffs at just the right time, when the Knicks were in absolute desperate need of it.
Additionally, the Knicks’ defense, particularly with the way Iman Shumpert is playing, exposed an essential flaw in the Pacers’ attack, mainly their lack of ball handlers, that is likely to have major ramifications as this series progresses.
This series is still going to be a battle, the Pacers are too tough and too talented to expect otherwise, but the Knicks were to have no chance if they were going to get a 35% shooting Melo the rest of the way, so it was naturally especially encouraging to see him find his stroke.
So, good to have you back, Melo, now has anyone seen J.R.?