Indiana’s 106-99 dispatch of the Knicks last night ended the latter’s 2012-13 season, and given New York’s aging roster and salary commitments to unmovable objects like Amare Stoudemire and Jason Kidd, it’s
impossible hard to feel optimistic about the franchise’s future (the continued ascent of Iman Shumpert excepted). Since his arrival from Denver, the Knicks’ near-term fate has been inextricably linked to the output of Carmelo Anthony, who not only has failed to advance beyond the 2nd round after a decade in the league, his 4th quarter performances vs. Indiana in this series might well define his pro career. Unless, in the words of CBS Sports’ Matt Moore, he’s able to adapt (“we’ve seen this from Kobe Bryant in past years to all the other high-volume shooters, is that if your teammates are struggling, you need to score in the flow of the offense but keep them involved. Cold begets cold. No one else stepped up for New York because they were never involved”)
Anthony is a singularly incredible talent. Strong, versatile, with excellent footwork and terrific range, when he’s cooking, he seems unstoppable. But the system, and I hate to beat this drum again, is unsustainable. You can’t rely on shots off the dribble, from Anthony and from J.R. Smith (who is a topic for another day), over and over again, and hope to beat playoff offenses.
Let’s say you believe that you can. That one guy can carry you home, that one guy can get past Paul George’s perimeter defense, and slip past the help defense from Lance Stephenson or David West and then shoot over Roy Hibbert.
The cost is then on the other end. The exhaustion gets to you, the wear and tear breaks you down, and eventually it’s felt somewhere. For Anthony, it was felt all over the court. You can chalk up the missed shots to them just not falling against good defense. You can claim the turnovers are just the Pacers anticipating, or the Knicks not coming to the ball. But then Lance Stephenson took Melo into the post, worked him and scored on him to make one of the lock-it-up scores late in Game 6.
Anthony was so focused on offense for so much of the game, there was nothing left.