As the 2013 NBA Playoffs march on, we knew that once the New York Knicks dropped a couple of games Knicks’ superstar Carmelo Anthony’s playoff resume would soon be called into question.
Everyone knows by now about ‘Melo’s postseason failures, as Anthony has amassed only a 20-39 career playoff record. His three wins this season no longer make him the NBA player with the career-worst winning percentage, but his .338 postseason winning percentage is the second-worst of all-time among players with at least 20 playoff games under their belt.
Only Mookie Blaylock (.333) won less playoff games.
Superstars get judged by what they do when it counts and Anthony hasn’t lived up to his billing.
For me though a better judge is how a player performs when the series is on the line.
Superstars take their games to another level when the opportunity arises to close out a series, or even extend one.
That’s something Knicks fans haven’t seen from ‘Melo this season.
With two opportunities to send the Boston Celtics packing, Anthony hasn’t taken his game to another level.
In fact just the opposite is true.
When it has mattered the most, ‘Melo tends to struggle the most.
Early in the series, Anthony was taking what the Celtics gave him offensively. He got good shots and was playing efficient offensive basketball, making 36-of-78 (46.2 percent) of his field goal attempts.
The entire Knicks offense performs better when ‘Melo is efficient and not forcing things. The ball moves more and not only does Anthony get better looks, but so do his teammates.
But things change for Anthony when the series is on the line.
Anthony begins trying to do too much and “Melo Ball” is back in full effect.
The results show that as Anthony has made only 18-of-59 (30.5 percent) field goal attempts with two opportunities to close out the Celtics.
But it isn’t just two games this season; it’s been a problem throughout his career.
Due to his struggles in the postseason, ‘Melo has appeared in only 16 games (out of 59) that resulted in either an opportunity to close out a series or potentially extend one.
These are the games where true superstars must raise their level of play. But in those 16 games, Anthony has averaged only 27.1 points per game while shooting only 35.4 percent (134-of-378) from the floor.
His scoring is up slightly as Anthony’s career scoring average in postseason play is 25.4 points per game. But that’s also a number to take with a grain of salt as ‘Melo averaged only 15.0 and 19.2 points per game his first two playoff seasons. But the important number to look at is the fact that Anthony is a career 42 percent shooter in the postseason, which makes his numbers in deciding games considerably lower.
But there are other factors that play into his struggles as well.
Anthony’s career postseason numbers show that he doesn’t rebound or dish out assists in potential deciding games. Anthony has posted career 7.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists numbers in postseason play, but in those 16 deciding games, those numbers dip to under five rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
He’s a guy who doesn’t impact the game defensively either, so his all-around performance in such games is very concerning.
So is the fact that he has won only four of the 16 games.
Five of those 16 games have come with Anthony’s team having the chance to close out a series and he has only been victorious twice (both in 2009 with Denver). That also means that he has had 11 opportunities to extend a series and give his team another chance at winning a series. He’s won only two of those attempts.
There’s no doubting that ‘Melo is a true superstar and one of the league’s best pure players.
But for some unknown reason, he doesn’t perform at his best when a series is on the line.
That’s a telling sign. It’s a large sample size so it’s no fluke.
The games best leaders deliver when it is on the line. That’s something Anthony hasn’t done.
All of this begs the question of if Anthony is capable of closing a series out, much less the three of them it would take to get to the NBA Finals.
The numbers suggest he isn’t.
However Friday is a new day and Anthony will get at least one more attempt to prove the doubters wrong.
Let’s hope he is at his best in Game 6.
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