I’ve been arguing for quite awhile now that this Knicks postseason will be less about Carmelo Anthony, a player whose strengths and weaknesses have been plenty well established, and more about the supporting cast or the team as a whole. In my mind, we already pretty much know what kind of player Carmelo is — a great one — but we weren’t quite sure if the Knicks had put the right pieces around him to make a deep playoff run. And in a sense, I still think that, just not about this particular series.
The Knicks have to win this series, for sure, but Carmelo Anthony REALLY needs to win this series.
Oddly enough, this creates something of a strange tension. Because of the nature of the Knicks’ offense in this series, heavy on isolation play, the narrative of a Knicks failure as a final judgement on Anthony is practically writing itself. New York’s played a bunch of these games looking like they’re doing an impression of everyone’s worst idea of what the Knicks are like. Now, I’m not pointing the finger solely at Anthony as far as that’s concerned, merely pointing out that it will make it that much more helpful for the folks so eager to have their fingers pointed squarely in that direction. But as everyone starts needling Melo for his lack of assists, there’s equal expectation for him to go out an put up a monster number in one of these last two games. There’s sort of a weird dynamic there where everyone’s whining for Anthony to pass the ball, while equally begging for him to score 40+. It must be sort of dizzying.
But I do think this is one instance where the outside narrative has some merit. As much as I don’t want to make this all about Melo, it’s hard not to. I don’t put all the blame for Anthony’s career playoff troubles on his shoulders, but you’d be hard pressed to watch this series unfold and not feel like you were just making excuses for the guy if you continued to believe none of this was his fault. At some point, he does have to have some consistent playoff success if we’re going to consider him the type of player we all consider him to be.
The good news is that I think he’ll answer the proverbial bell. I expect the Knicks to play well tonight and I expect Carmelo to play extremely well. There’s a large contingent of people waiting for Anthony and these Knicks to fail in precisely the fashion their failing in, their “I told you so’s” hanging in mid-air. But I don’t expect they’ll get to trot them out quite yet, or at least I certainly hope they don’t.