There’s no doubting the fact that the New York Knicks need Carmelo Anthony at his best to win games.
There’s also no doubting the fact that Melo hasn’t been at his best late in games, which coincidently has cost the Knicks more than a few wins this season.
Anthony has struggled in a big way this season when the fourth quarter rolls around and there could be a good reason for that.
Entering play Saturday, Anthony led the league in minutes played per game (39.1). He played 50 minutes in Friday’s double-overtime loss to Orlando, followed by 37 the very next night in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Whether those minutes have impacted Anthony is open to debate. He’s the league’s second-leading scorer, but his field goal percentage drops in each successive quarter. He’s also struggled in several fourth quarters of recent Knicks losses.
It makes sense to have Anthony on the floor a lot, but Woodson may have burned his superstar out by playing him too many minutes for the duration of the season. He knows he has to play Melo major minutes for the Knicks to miraculously get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, which seems doubtful to begin with.
“For us, right now, I’ve gotta play him because again, there’s just no room for error,” Woodson said Friday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show.” He continued: “We’re trying to make the playoffs, man. So when I can rest him I will rest him. If I can’t, I gotta play him and I think he understands that. He’s never really complained and I’ve got to watch in this trench.”
However by not monitoring Anthony’s minutes all season, Woodson has practically worn down his best player. When he needs him the most, he is not at his best.
In Saturday’s loss to the Hawks, Melo missed 8-of-10 shot attempts in the fourth quarter. In Friday’s loss to the Magic he was a little better, but still missed 6-of-11 attempts in the fourth quarter and subsequent overtimes. He did have a solid fourth quarter in Wednesday’s win vs. the Pelicans by making 5-of-8 attempts, but in Tuesday’s loss to the Grizzlies, he made only 2-of-5 fourth quarter attempts.
Add all of that up and since the All-Star break, Anthony has made only 14-of-34 attempts from the floor in the fourth quarters as the Knicks have lost three of four games. In that span he has played 169 minutes (42.25 per game).
On the season Anthony has made only 93-of-249 attempts (37.3 percent) from the floor in fourth quarters this season.
That’s not exactly superstar level.
It’s also among the worst shooting performances late in games of any perceived superstar in the NBA.
So what’s the reason?
Has Woodson played Anthony too many minutes or is Melo simply failing to step up in the clutch?
I lean towards a combination of both, but it would certainly have helped his numbers some and probably have resulted in more than a few more wins had Woodson not tried to burn his superstar out throughout the season.
One thing is for sure though and that is Anthony needs to be much better in fourth quarters the rest of the way for the Knicks to have any success the rest of the way.
It’s too late for Woodson to correct himself now.
He’s going to have to keep running Melo out there for major minutes each night.
However he may have already burned him out.