As someone who’s had a pretty long-running argument now that there’s not that much new about this year’s Carmelo Anthony, other than a better supporting cast and a better record, I have to admit there was a moment in the first half of the Knicks’ Game 1 win over Boston when I sighed and thought, “Oh right, this. I didn’t like this.”
The this in that was the sight of those Carmelo 15-second jab-step tangos, in which an endless array of moves result in a contested jumper and a long stinging sip of whiskey for the rest of us. It was a reminder that, yes, there has been something new, and better, about the player Anthony has been in what’s arguably his finest season as a pro. What was interesting about the whole display was how jarring it was, both a reminder of how good he’s been all season, and how far he has actually come. In other words, it was the worst half we’d seen him play in a long while.
But none of this is to point and yell, “See! That’s the real Melo! That’s the LOSER!” which is only for those who either failed to take into account that there was an actual capable defense forcing the Knicks into some of that, disrupting their pick and roll game and forcing them to settle for Carmelo and J.R. going one on one, or didn’t watch the second half. If you’re in the mood for that type of tripe, I’ll point you here (Ed. note: Read that at your own risk and without access to sharp objects or heavy machinery. Yeesh).
But given the trouble Boston’s defense gave the Knicks, and how effectively they were able to take New York out of its game, there’s a reading of that Game 1 as a positive for Boston. But I find that opinion hard to square.
To my mind, the Knicks played about as poorly as they could, getting close to nothing from a clearly rusty Tyson Chandler, while struggling to execute their offense and they still won, comfortably. When the game was over, it was just hard for me to see how the Celtics are to win four of these games, just no one tell Garnett I said that.
There was certainly cause for angst heading into that locker room, as I was left clutching a soft blanket and staring anxiously out the window. But if you were concerned that New York would be unable to adjust, I would think that second half had to put your mind at ease. Obviously, the defense tightened up, with Jason Kidd leading the way, helping the Knicks force enough turnovers to turn the Celtics into something of a sputtering mess throughout the final period.
So I don’t know, perhaps something will happen that dramatically shifts the fortunes of this series, but I don’t really see it. To me, the Knicks’ absorbed Boston’s best punch in that first half, then responded all “You ain’t so bad!” ala Rocky III (As an aside, people like to point to no Pacquiao/Mayweather as the perfect symbol of boxing’s dysfunction, but I still think the greater travesty was the almost criminal decision to eschew a Clubber Lang/Rocky Balboa rubber match. I mean, two stunning early-round knockouts and there’s no third fight? Simply a disgrace).
Which isn’t to say that the Knicks will waltz into the second round without much of a sweat, there’s too much pride and talent left on that Boston roster for that, but I still think all the “This is definitely going seven games” hype to start the series was slightly overblown and I’m not sure it’s going to be quite as heavy a lift as some might have predicted, even if saying that out loud has me reaching back for that soft blankie.