If you’re a Knicks fan like I am, then you probably still aren’t completely recovered from their loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Pacers. That’s probably because, like me, you still feel as if they should have won that game.
Well, you’re right. They should have. I know it’s painful, but let’s quickly revisit that night: Behind a three-point barrage led by Iman Shumpert and Chris Copeland, New York had roared back from a 12-point third quarter deficit to take an 87-84 lead in the fourth. At that point, I was almost 100 percent sure (foolishly confident, of course) that the Knicks were going to force a series-deciding seventh game.
And then, with just under 10 minutes to play, that’s when Knicks head coach Mike Woodson decided to insert Carmelo Anthony into the game for Shumpert. From there, Anthony went 2-for-7 and made three crucial turnovers as the Knicks watched their lead dissipate and their season come to a brutal ending.
Am I blaming Carmelo for the Knicks’ shortcomings in the series? No. I am, however, giving him most of the blame for that Game 6 loss.
Anthony was in the game for the entirety of the third quarter, and he played nearly flawless basketball. He scored 11 points in the quarter’s first six minutes, and when Shumpert had the hot hand towards the end of the period, ‘Melo got out of his way. In fact, while Iman was busy tallying 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the final five minutes, Anthony attempted just one field goal: an easy layup that he made. It was beautiful to witness. Carmelo was forcing absolutely nothing, and New York’s offense was flowing in a way that hadn’t been seen since its 13-game winning streak in March of the regular season.
‘Melo took a quick break to begin the fourth quarter, and the Knicks didn’t miss a beat. Chris Copeland knocked down back-to-back threes, giving New York that very 87-84 advantage that was previously referred to.
From there, you already know what happened. ‘Melo came into the game for Shumpert (what was Woodson thinking????????) and tried to take the fourth quarter over on his own. As I watched it all unfold, I almost got the sense that simply winning wasn’t quite enough for Anthony. He’s always had the reputation as being one of basketball’s best closers, and on that night, he wanted to be the one to closeout the Pacers. So, he went out and tried to play hero ball. He resorted to isolation plays, going one-on-one against Pacer defenders on several possessions and completely disrupting New York’s offensive rhythm. He missed shot after shot, committed several key turnovers, and ultimately ruined what should have been a Knicks’ Game 6 victory.
My point in all of this isn’t to completely bash and crucify Carmelo for one 10-minute stretch of basketball. Instead, it’s to show just how much Carmelo still has to accomplish. For the ninth time in his 10-year career, he failed to advance past the second round of the postseason. And, a mere month after he suffered that Game 6 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, it was LeBron James and Dwyane Wade celebrating yet another championship.
The championship was the third for Wade, the 2006 Finals MVP. For LeBron, it was his second title and his second consecutive Finals MVP. In addition to that, James has also now won the regular season MVP award four times.
Yes, I’m stating the obvious, but I’m doing so for a reason. While LeBron and Wade have spent the last seven years winning championships and different MVP awards, Carmelo has still yet to accomplish anything significant. (No, sorry, one scoring title and six All-Star selections doesn’t fit the criteria for significant, at least not relative to what James and Wade have done.)
And since the 2003 NBA Draft, those three — ‘Melo, Wade and ‘Bron — have always been grouped together. But should they be? I’m not so sure about that.
Don’t get me wrong: Carmelo is one of the most offensively talented players in the game. But, with all things considered, his career to this point has been one huge disappointment. It started out in Denver, where he spent seven full seasons as a Nugget. During his first five seasons, the Nuggets consistently won between 45 and 50 games, but Carmelo failed and failed and failed to get them past the first round of the playoffs. It wasn’t until the team acquired Chauncey Billups that they were able to win a playoff series in 2009, when they ultimately fell to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The following season, Anthony and the Nuggets went backwards and suffered another first round loss, this time to the Utah Jazz.
After that, the entire sports world knew what ‘Melo wanted to do: become a New York Knick. He was going to enter free agency at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season, at which point he would sign with New York. The problem? He didn’t want to wait. Carmelo forced his way out of Denver at the trade deadline, and in doing so forced the Knicks to give up a boatload of assets. Not only did they sacrifice the talents of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to acquire ‘Melo, but they also sent two draft picks and the right to trade 2016 first-round selections to Denver.
It was all for nothing. With Carmelo, the Knicks were just as average for the rest of the 2011 season as they were before acquiring him, and they suffered a first-round sweep to the Boston Celtics.