Tuesday, April 19, 2011

There's Only So Much One Player Can Do

Tonight's game was what it was. The Knicks were without two of their three best players, and Carmelo Anthony put up one of the best performances in Knicks playoff history. It wasn't just his line - 42 points on 14-30 shooting, 17 rebounds, 6 assists - it was the circumstances under which he got there. He played 70% of the game 1 on 5. We talk about supporting casts, tonight was one of the worst I can ever remember seeing.

Forget bad games, they were having trouble executing simple basketball plays. Carmelo was ready to do everything tonight. All he needed was for the basketball to be taken care of when it wasn't in his hands, and a few 4 on 2 wide open layups finished while he was being tripled (he made all the right passes tonight without giving it up too much knowing he needed to shoulder the load). He got neither. It was a pathetic performance, and it's shameful that they wasted that kind of performance from Melo and a chance to get the split in Boston. But outside of seeing what Melo is all about when push comes to shove, we probably learned more about Boston tonight than we did about the Knicks. There is no way the Knicks should have been in that game.

It's an opportunity wasted, but you don't expect to win a game on the road against Boston without Amare and Chauncey. The real opportunity was on Sunday night. That was a game the Knicks should have won, and they didn't for two primary reasons.

1. The Knicks have two of the Top 10 scorers in the NBA. Two. They don't need Carmelo to do it every night. Sometimes it can be the Amare show. Especially when Amare is going off and Carmelo is having an off night. That was the case Sunday. The Celtics don't have anyone who can even pretend to guard Amare Stoudemire. He's playing a different game than Kevin Garnett and Glenn Davis, and everyone in the gym knows it. He wasn't just scoring on them, he was seemingly posterizing them every other trip down the court. 28 points on 12-18 shooting. Only problem with that? When a guy has 28 points on 66.7% shooting, he has to take more than 18 shots. Has to.

Again, this is especially true when Carmelo is having an off night. Off nights happen. One of the main reasons the Knicks were in both games was because Pierce and Garnett haven't done much of anything from a total production standpoint. But the Celtics know how to shift the focus to the hot hand(s) and run their offense for them. They don't force it. The Knicks didn't have to force it Sunday, they could have just gone through Amare and let him continue to score at will until the Celtics adjusted. They didn't and this was a big difference in the game.

2. The officials consistently let both teams play for 47 minutes. Lot of contact both ways. I have no problem with that, especially in a playoff game. But if that's the way you've been calling it for 47 minutes you can't suddenly whistle Melo for that offensive foul. I've seen all over the place even Boston fans agree with that. You've got a great game going into the last minute, and two All-Star caliber players going at it. Let them decide it, that's what we want to see as fans anyway. Don't call that, and then let Garnett get away with a blatant trip on the Allen screen. And then let Delonte West come on the floor to chestbump Allen even though play was continuing since the Knicks had not timeouts left (this is indefensible even if they hadn't called the offensive, you can't come on the court and make contact with a player while play is going on). Don't call the Garnett screen, and don't call the Melo offensive. Let the players decide it. The Knicks may still lose this game anyway, but at least let them lose it themselves.

The bottom line is the Knicks were in a position to get both games and they got neither. They've executed their defensive gameplan beautifully. Let Rondo get whatever he wants. Go for 40 on 60% shooting. No problem. Because A. as we saw in Games 1, when you leave him sometimes he still can't do anything so it's a good gamble to take and B. as we saw in Game 2 even when he does go off, all that usually means is Pierce and Allen aren't going off. Rondo making layups and 12 footers doesn't ignite the crowd and the team the way Allen sticking 3's and Pierce making tough step-backs does. When Pierce and Allen go off, they are dangerous. When Rondo and to a lesser extent Garnett go off, they are just going off. Big difference.

But the Knicks have nothing to show for it because the Cetics find ways to win games at the end. Which is fine, as bad as these losses have been it's all part of the learning experience. It's just too bad, because if they had been the ones to find a way to win one, especially tonight, The Garden would have been a madhouse on Friday. Melo would have gotten one of the biggest ovations you can imagine, and if Amare and/or Billups are back, the Celtics would have had a scene to deal with. They still will, but nothing like what it might have been. The Knicks need to win a game just to legitimize themselves in this series.

The one silver lining that Knicks fans can take away from this is that Amare and Carmelo have only played two playoff games in a Knick uniform, and already they've shown us who they are. Nobody can raise any of those questions ever again. They're playing a far deeper, more experienced, and just better team and each player took the team on their back one night. Basketball doesn't have the randomness that baseball does, where you have to do something a lot before we whether someone can do something. In basketball either you can or you can't. They've shown that they can, and they can big.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

That was a big, big, big game from Carmelo Anthony last night. He scared the absolute hell out of me. He made tough shots and had about half as many rebounds as the Celtics did all by himself.

Couple of thoughts--first, I think deep down he prefers playing with weaker players. He gets to take all the shots and make all the plays and everything runs through him. It was obviously his best game as a Knick and it came without his two best teammates for the majority of the game. That tells me two things--one, he considers himself an alpha, and two, he's really, really good. Which makes me wonder why he ever left Denver in the first place.

Secondly, these types of games are exactly what I expected from this series and I will still be surprised if it does not go seven games. The Knicks will get Game 3 and then Game 4 will really be wild. I don't know if the Celtics can win in New York right now (even though they did twice during the season). I see this series shaping up a lot like Celtics/Cavs in 2008.

As for the officiating a few thoughts--first, Jermaine O'Neal was called for TWO illegal screens in fourth quarter on Sunday. That's ridiculous, especially considering how that call has been de-emphasized by the league in recent years. Secondly, watch the end of close games--guys are KILLING players on screens. In the Celtics/Heat game in February Dwyane Wade absolutely destroyed Ray Allen on a screen freeing up Mike Miller. Easily five times worse than what happened between Garnett and Douglas. Why didn't we hear anything about it? Because Mike Miller bricked the shot.
Lastly, I'm intrigued that you would complain about calls/non-calls late in games, considering that St. John's greatly benefited from arguably the two most egregious non-calls in the history of the Big East tournament this year.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

i'm assuming he left denver because he preferred playing in new york to denver, and since this is his one and only chance to be an nba basketball player he wanted to go where he preferred to be. people change teams in sports, and for some reason now whenever someone does it in the nba it's open season for psychoanalysis.

perhaps he prefers playing with weaker players. or, perhaps the best comes out of him when his back is to the wall. like when his coach tells him at a timeout amare is done for the night, and it's all on him. he played with some pretty good players in denver (good enough to go to the western conference finals two years ago), and has averaged 31 and 9 and 27 and 6 the last two postseasons. last night was nothing new for him, people just make it seem that way because he's on a bigger stage now.

to your points, people do crush people late in games in the nba. and those two teams were particularly crushing each other sunday night. and that's why you can't whistle anthony for getting paul pierce's arm off of him. that's a play that happens 25 times per game on both ends. i have no problem with not whistling garnett (although he flat out missed the screen, so he tripped douglas, so this doesn't fall under our "crushing" argument...but i still wouldn't want that whistled based on how the rest of the game was officiated). the problem i have is that the play before that was the one outlier of the entire game, then the refs went back to business as usual the next possession. that was a HUGE whistle. even the sports guy acknowledged that you can't blow that whistle. if he says it from the other side, that means it definitely shouldn't have been called.

i'm not sure if another one of my teams benefiting from calls forfeits my rights discuss the officiating for that team, let alone another one of my teams. i follow four teams closely. they both benefit and get screwed on calls all the time. i was the first to say the officiating at the end of that sju/rutgers game was an embarrassment. so i'm not remotely deterred from entering a conversation like this, especially when it is one being had so widely. everyone is talking about that call, so i'm not exactly breaking ground here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be off-topic here but it links with some recent discussion topics. I think this article will be parts amusing, eye-opening, head-scratching and, hopefully, enlightening as to the just how vast the difference in pitching mentality is from one side of the Pacific to the other.

http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201104180167.html

TimC

Anonymous said...

PF

I don't quite understand where all the vitriol is coming from in your latest post. I can imagine being frustrated if the Celtics had lost two games they should have won, but at the same time, it's not like anyone really thinks the Knicks are going to win a championship this year, yourself included.

Also, Carmelo Anthony didn't play with any superstars in Denver. Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups, end-of-his-career Allen Iverson. As you mentioned, he went to the Western Finals, more or less carrying his team there. He didn't have one teammate as good as Stoudemire. I was pointing out that it was interesting that once he was surrounded by an average group of players, he played his best basketball. I can't imagine why that would get your riled up.

On officiating--the NBA is routinely officiated as poorly or moreso than any professional league. This is not a new issue. A terrible call at the end of a game is almost always offset by an equally horrible call/non-call earlier in the game. A missed call in the second quarter just doesn't garner much attention.

As for the St. John's non-call--come on Pat, you're better than that--if you can't tell by now when somebody is just trying to rile you up then I don't what to tell you.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

PF,

Just so you know, your complaining about the Knicks and the calls sounds exactly like a Red Sox fan of 8 years ago complaining about the Red Sox and the Yankees. I was waiting for you to start complaining about how the Celtics have a higher payroll than the Knicks. It's good to know that New York fans aren't really any different from Boston fans when their team is the underdog. You really don't handle it very well.

Also, while you are right that the Amare is better than Garnett and Big Baby, at least Garnett and Big Baby can make basic basketball plays which is what you need for your supporting players (KG is a role player at this point). As you point out in your post, you had guys that couldn't do basic things like catch the ball and lay it in. Embarrassing. Carmelo basically called out Jeffries after the game, saying that he (Carmelo) made the right play at the end and that he hoped next time Jeffries would just lay it in. I feel for you- I know what it's like to root for incompetent teams.

Regarding the foul on Anthony, that was a tough call no doubt- I probably wouldn't have called it at that stage of the game. At the end of the day though, you can only complain so much. It was a 50/50 call and it went against you. In game 1 Carmelo blatantly fouled Pierce before he passed it to Allen for the game winning shot and there was no call there. You win some you lose some.

Lastly, Melo/Amare and the Knicks should take notice of the Mavericks and their first two games (granted they could very well go on and win the series). Dirk has similar issues from a supporting cast perspective (a lot of has beens), but in crunch time, they execute their offense and get the ball to Dirk in the right spots. Dirk has been surprising me and has takent the ball to the rim- he's been to the line over 20 times combined in the fourth quarter of games 1 and 2.

The Knicks could be up 2-0 if they simply executed an offense and got the ball to Amare in game 1 or Carmelo in game 2 in the right spots, late in the game. Instead they are letting the Celtics push them way out to the wings and are taking bad shots or turning the ball over down the stretch.

Patrick said...

gunn -

i meant no vitriol at all. if it came across that way, i apologize.

i am frustrated by the losses, and maybe that is making things come across stronger than i intend them. not only did i not expect the knicks to win a championship this year, i didn't expect them to win this series. but the celtics have looked even more vulnerable than i thought they would (i thought they'd give the knicks a chance in one of the first two games, but not both. especially with amare and billups out.), and the knicks should have found a way to come away with a split. it would have made the series really interesting. it still may get that way, but they won't have the momentum they would have heading into friday 1-1. that almost all of the role players last night were so inept in every facet of the game only compounds the issue. all they needed to do was make a few very low-level difficulty plays and the knicks probably win the game. very frustrating.

what really has be frustrated today, though, is some of the stuff i've seen said about carmelo. i was shown an article this morning of a major international website where the author's premise was that anthony doesn't get it because of his postgame demeanor (very even, apparently not "upset" enough). like, really? really? rest assured, if he played poorly but was "firey" after the loss, he'd be getting criticized for not playing well. maybe not by the same author, but by others. it's just ridiculous. it's honestly entering "a-rod light" territory with anthony. no matter if the guy is great 98% of the time, those 2% of missteps get illuminated as if those are the norm. these are carmelo's last 5 playoff averages: 29 and 11, 31 and 9, 27 and 6, 23 and 10, and 27 and 9. these are ages 22-26 seasons. he goes 42-17-6 last night in one of the tougher on-floor circumstances of his career. and he's still getting criticized. in no way am i suggesting that he should be free from criticism. quite the opposite. biggest stars, biggest expectations. but if someone finds a way to criticize him last night, they are just off-base.

this, in conjunction with the two losses, had me more on the serious side than i usually am this morning. that's probably why your sju joke went right over my head when it shouldn't have. that's on me, my bad.

did you think the anthony offensive should have been called, or would you rather have seen him and pierce play it out?

Patrick said...

bandi -

i'm really not trying to sound like i'm complaining about that call. i'm not blaming the knicks losses on the officials at all - i am trying to make it plainly clear that the knicks very well may lose the game even if they got that call, AND they should have found a way to win the game despite not getting that call.

i take the stance that officiating is a part of the game, and it is something we can discuss. as you and i both said, we know that you are going to win some and lose some. when you lose them, it automatically seems like you are complaining. i was really just more disappointed, because as a fan, after a game as good as sunday night's, i want to see two star players decide it. i think that's what we all want to see as fans. in no way do i think this "decided" the game. but i do think it impacted it. and i would say the same thing if it went the other way.

i also don't feel the underdog thing that much. sorry if it comes across that way. the knicks are definitely the underdog, but i accept their place as that. they are a young team with a young core that should have good things to come in the future. now is not their time, they just aren't ready. but i think it's still okay to be frustrated when a supporting cast is as bad as the knicks was last night, or they don't get the ball to the right guy (amare) in game 1. this has nothing to do with being a bad underdog. these are just things i expect from my team, even one that isn't ready.

Anonymous said...

PF

Did I like the call against Anthony in Game 1? As a Celtics fan, yes. Was it the right call under the circumstances? No. In the second quarter? Sure it is. In the last minute of the fourth? No. It was a bad call and if it was a Bulls/Pacers game I'd have said as much from the very get go.

As for criticism of Carmelo Anthony, if you watched the game last night then you can't really criticize him. I was very critical of him three weeks ago on this blog. Didn't think he cared late in the game and I said as much. He combined for a '65' last night--points, rebounds, assists. If that doesn't show that he cared, I don't know what will.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

gunn -

i figured you felt that way. and what you just said in that one paragraph is all i was really getting at.

your second paragraph also illuminates what i'm getting at. people want to talk about carmelo on certain fronts three weeks ago, fine. it's a conversation. but after someone does what he does last night, under those circumstances, and people STILL find a way to criticize him...then it's at the point where he can't win unless he does it all. and that is what i meant by "a-rod light". forget all of is off the field stuff. there was a time on the field where people found a way to criticize even the good things he did unless it was a bottom of the 9th, down 1, 2 out, 2 run walk-off homer. he had to do it all. and i just don't think that's fair. sometimes you just have to tip your cap to a guy, even if he's been the subject of some debate in recent history. last night was one of those nights. he did what people have been asking him to do, and for some it still wasn't good enough because they didn't win. guess what, it isn't easy to beat boston in boston without the team's other two best players. and he had them right there.

speaking of which, i'll tip my hat to boston for again finding a way to score on their last possession against the knicks. the way not only games 1 and 2, but the recent history of knicks/celtics games have gone, i and probably most fully expected pierce or allen to make that shot. but doc - who has developed an incredible skill for getting things out of timeouts - isolated a mismatch with garnett (who had been largely a non-factor in both games) and jeffries and got the basket he needed. doc didn't always have this skill, he's grown into it. i'm hoping d'antoni can do the same, because the knicks are getting outdone big by the celtics out of the timeout in this series and that's been a factor in both games.

Patrick said...

also - and i bring this up out of the context of the seriousness of some of these other topics - can i get some thoughts on delonte west coming on the court to chest bump ray allen in the middle of a play?!?! forget the ebb and flow of officiating, that is a black and white call. 6 men on the court. and it wasn't like it was borderline, he's a few feet on the court jumping up and down after a big shot. that's fine. he came out and chest bumped ray allen while he was getting back on defense with the knicks transitioning the ball! how do you not call that?! unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

PF

I do not like any of that stuff after guys make shots. It makes no sense. Haven't these guys made big shots before? Aren't they pros? Forget the fact that it was a blatant violation either as a technical (or more likely) a delay of game, there's just no reason to get that crazy. It's not like it was at the buzzer. There were still 12 seconds left!

On Saturday Matt Bonner hit not one, but two huge threes late in the game. The camera showed him afterward and you could not tell whether he'd made the shots, missed them, or was getting ready to order a pizza. It was beautiful. Earlier in the year I saw Kevin Durant make fadeaway 28 footer at the buzzer against Memphis or Utah (or whomever) and he acted like it was just something he does. Which was terrific. That's the way it should be.

The Celtics are just as guilty of this stuff as anybody else (Pierce and Garnett tend to be the worst offenders). Ray Allen, despite being involved in that transgression on Sunday is often very demure when he bangs home most of his threes, at most you'll usually see him with a little fist pump or a point. I don't know where all the histrionics came from, but I wish they'd go back there.

--the Gunn