Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally got the monkey off their back when they ended the longest playoff drought in NBA history by snapping their 13-game losing streak and defeating the Miami Heat on Sunday for their first postseason victory since 2001.
Anthony was outstanding, scoring 41 points and putting the Knicks on his back late in the game, but like everything else during the Knicks’ roller-coaster season, good news is met with a dose of bad news.
Despite Anthony’s heroics and the return of Amar’e Stoudemire to the Knicks lineup, New York suffered another costly injury when it lost point guard Baron Davis, who dislocated his right kneecap in the third quarter.
With no Davis in the lineup and rookie Iman Shumpert already on the shelf with a knee injury, the Knicks are down to what promises to be the unproductive duo of Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas or a possible return of injured point guard Jeremy Lin.
While Melo’s hero ball worked for one game, it’s not likely to have much success if Lin returns, though.
Granted, Anthony shot the ball pretty well on Sunday, going 15-of-29 from the floor, but looking back on his past playoff performances with New York, Melo shot only .375 from the floor in last season’s sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics and was only shooting .344 (22-of-64) in the first three games of this series.
If Lin returns to the lineup, and there’s no indication he’s going to be ready, to succeed the Knicks offense is going to need to rely on ball movement and that hasn’t been Anthony’s strength in postseason play.
This postseason alone, despite the poor shooting percentage, Anthony has attempted 33 percent of the Knicks’ shots from the floor.
Once Lin emerged as a potential star, the Knicks’ playmaking needs were resolved, so Melo didn’t have to attempt to fill that role, but Anthony was uncomfortable in a point-guard-dominated offense and admitted as much a week before Mike D’Antoni resigned as head coach.
He hasn’t been able to play with other teammates effectively, as the Knicks’ best success with Lin came with Anthony out of the lineup and Anthony’s best success in a Knicks uniform came in April with both Lin and Stoudemire nursing injuries.
It’s unfortunate for Knicks fans, but there is a reason that Anthony has a career playoff record of 17-36 in nine career postseasons, has got out of the first round only once and has the worst career postseason winning percentage (.321) of any player with 50 or more playoff games under his belt.
An isolation-dominated offense, or Meloball, can get a team 40-50 regular season wins, but it doesn’t work against good defensive teams in the playoffs.
But that’s the way Anthony plays the game and if he’s going to go down, he’s going down shooting.
Adding Lin to the mix is just going to have Anthony out of sorts. Of course, that’s with a Lin who’s been playing, not a rusty Lin who hasn’t played basketball in five weeks.
If Meloball stands any chance, and it doesn’t stand much this series, he’s going to need the ball in his hands a ton.
If Lin is going well, the Knicks offense is based on playmaking and ball movement, but when it hits Anthony’s hands, the movement will stop and the tempo Lin creates will slow down.
One day, for the Knicks to have postseason success, Anthony is going to have to learn to play with his teammates better, but it’s going to be a lot to ask him to change his game with only three days in between Game 4 and Game 5.
As good as it would be to see Lin back on the court, the chances of things working right now between he and Melo are very slim.
Lin may give them an initial spark, but it’s going to be Anthony who either puts the Knicks on his back or shoots New York right out of the series.