In the 14 months since his much-ballyhooed arrival in Gotham, Carmelo Anthony has been labeled a franchise-savior, a ball-stopper, a scoring-savant, a coach-killer and hero-baller. If he keeps playing like he did last night against the Boston Celtics, it won’t much matter what anyone calls him anymore, because eventually, they’ll call him a champion.
This is the ‘Melo who the Knicks thought they were getting when they moved heaven and earth to acquire him. This ‘Melo was the best player on the court despite the presence of at least two opposing future Hall of Famers. This ‘Melo, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the Knicks’ answer to LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Dirk or whoever else you want with the ball in their hands.
For some Knicks fans, Anthony’s D’Antoni-inspired malaise earlier this season still resonates negatively, but for many others, all has been forgiven. Whichever camp you’re in — praising Carmelo’s stellar play now doesn’t mean one need absolve him of the transparency of his MDA tank-job then; the two are not mutually exclusive — the evidence is clear on just how great Anthony has been since the coaching change. Since Mike Woodson took over, Anthony is averaging 24.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Over his last 11 games, he’s shooting well over 50% from the field, too. If you cherry pick his output since Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin went down, his scoring average inflates to 30.4 PPG. Not too shabby, indeed.
Prior to last night’s game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he “didn’t know if ‘Melo going it alone can work in a playoff series, but if there’s any player capable of proving [it], he’s one of them, along with Dirk [Nowitzki]. If he’s playing right,” Rivers said, “you’d put him, Kevin Durant and Dirk maybe in a category by themselves.”
I guess if a championship-winning coach thinks hero-ball can work, who are we to argue?
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Three-ways are so hot, aren’t they? ‘Melo, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak combined to drain 17 three-pointers last night. Fools good those treys may be, but you could find worse commodities to park the ol’ 401k, amirite?
- ‘Melopalloza! Anthony posted his second career triple-double last night — 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, the last two dimes courtesy of game-icing treys via lethal Novakaine injection — and amazingly managed to make Paul Pierce‘s 43 points seem like an afterthought. His other trip-dub came back in 2007 as a member of the Denver Nuggets. One thing that Anthony doesn’t get enough credit for is how physical a player he is. As noted by the esteemed Alan Hahn last night — the guy works even when he’s not working! — ‘Melo is one of the few players in today’s NBA that would have thrived in the league prior to the hand-checking rule change. He is not afraid of contact, and, at least when not playing for D’Antoni, he knows how imperative it is to drive to the basket, draw contact and get to the line. It is no coincidence that Anthony has averaged 7.8 FTAs per game over the course of his career.
- There are nights when J.R. Smith makes you want to curl up in a ball at the bottom of that well from The Silence of the Lambs and then there are nights like last night. Smith (25 points on 8-for-16 shooting) was absolutely unconscious against the Celtics, especially in the first half. In fact, he reportedly disrupted the halftime show when he nailed a trey from the locker room. Sure, J.R. spends way too much time dribbling around in advance of taking ridiculously difficult shots, but he is the Knicks’ x-factor and he is a difference maker. When he’s not leading you to consider gouging your own eyes out, of course.
- Folks are starting to wonder if the Knicks can afford to retain Steve Novak (25 points, 8 treys) when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s a legitimate concern. Novak, who will turn 29 this June, will certainly be in line for a significant pay raise, but how much, exactly, is a one dimensional sharp shooter worth in the open market? The Knicks will have some big decisions to make on Lin and the increasingly disappointing Landry Fields, but Novak strikes me as a guy who really likes playing in New York. Perhaps money won’t be his most important consideration.
- Tyson Chandler. Another game, another example of what beast-mode means. And to think, this guy grew up on a farm in Northern California and is an art collector. Crazy.
- Toney Douglas was a healthy DNP. Despite Woodson’s suggestion that Douglas might play last night, I suspect that the Knicks failure to go up by 40+ points during the game influenced the coach’s decision. Disagree? Look up “no lead is safe” in the the dictionary, and TD’s face will appear before you. Besides, Ol’ Man Bibby didn’t look half-bad out there against the Celtics.
- The Knicks’ bench outscored the Celtics’ bench 55-2! Boston’s lone bench-FG came on a running Keyon Dooling jumper. Is this is greatest bench-scoring disparity in NBA history? Inquiring minds want to know.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- Woodson: “Baron had a stomach issue tonight. He ate something.” Now I’m sure that Woody meant to say that Baron Davis ate something that disagreed with him, but not since the salad days of Eddy Curry — wait a minute, he never ate salad! — has a food joke been easier to make. In fairness to Davis, who has been sporting a svelte appearance all season, he’s obviously playing hurt and would not be out there at all if the Knicks had any other viable options at the point.
- I am running out of things to write about Fields. I noticed that his jumper looked just as line-drivish during warmups as it does in game-action, but things are likely to get worse before they get better because the Garden-faithful are really starting to turn on poor Landry. It’s almost as bad as Douglas got it back in January.
- Last night’s referees must have learned their craft at the Tim Donaghy School of Officiating because they were straight-up terrible. I heard from a league insider that the NBA privately suspends and fines poor officials, so hopefully someone takes note of just how egregious some of those calls were.
- The Knicks are now 9-1 at home under Woodson, which is approximately .900 basketball.
- ‘Melo must have lost his usual headband, because he was sporting an extra-thick Bibby-style band last night. Whatever works, Bruh.
- During the pregame, Woodson strongly hinted that if Stoudemire makes it through Thursday’s practice without incident, the power forward will start in Cleveland on Friday night. A freshly shaven Amar’e, sporting corn rows for the first time since he was 17-years-old, seemed to echo his coach’s sentiments. If Woodson is smart, he will limit STAT’s minutes. There is no need to push it, especially since the Knicks are highly unlikely to avoid the 7th or 8th seed.
- New York Giants legend Carl Banks was in attendance last night. He did not tackle anyone.
- Up next for the Knicks: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. @ NJ (for the last time). Tickets are available on Stubhub for negative $1.25. That’s right, the Nets will pay YOU to attend!
Don’t forget to follow @LoHudKnickson Twitter.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images