As far as miscalculations and bad decisions go, New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson might have just driven his team back further after sustaining a crushing loss in the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, with a score of 102-88.
After establishing a strong presence throughout the first three quarters, amassing points for New York, Woodson decided to let Carmelo “Melo” Anthony, the team’s league MVP hopeful, to have some rest as the fourth quarter rolled in. The problem? There was no one who could take his place and finish, or even sustain, the job. And New York can no longer keep up with the Clippers, conceding a whopping 31 points during the last quarter of the game.
So, what went wrong, exactly?
A great gameplay by Los Angeles notwithstanding, it was painfully glaring how Melo had seemed to act like a one-man team throughout the game. There was no one good enough to back him up, much less take over for him, not even on the scoring front.
It has to be reiterated that basketball is a team sport. A single player, even with stellar MVP potential, could not go at it alone, especially when faced with a team that actually plays like one. Woodson knew it, too, admitting during a pre-game interview that his team has to “get its act together”. Too bad those words didn’t translate into action.
Let us take a look at some of Melo’s contemporaries (read: fellow league MVP aspirants): Miami Heat’s LeBron James, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, and Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul.
Currently leading the Eastern Conference standings is Miami Heat, with their MVP candidate, LeBron James, having a great run. He has just broken a franchise record, after scoring more than 30 points in his fifth straight game, clocking an average shooting percentage per game of 70%. Still, James alone would not have been able to propel Miami forward. Beside him and behind him are the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen.
Reigning All-Star Game MVP is also getting a lot of help from his teammates, and his tandem with point guard Russell Westbrook is undeniably going strong. Chris Paul, on the other hand, can always rely on Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill to back him up when things get rough.
Melo didn’t have a support system just as strong. The team’s defender, Iman Shupert, still could not defend much in the backcourt, no thanks to the knee injury he had been battling with for the entire season. What used to be a stellar shooting prowess on the part of J.R. Smith has dulled, with his shooting percentage dropping below 40%.
It is also worth noting how the defense of the Kings has been floundering in recent games. Aside from losing possible MVP votes for Melo, the Knicks are most likely looking at being relegated to fighting it out for a fourth seed. At the rate that Miami Heat and Boston Celtics are going in their respective streaks, this could be a highly probably likelihood.
With popular opinion going on a negative vein when it comes to Melo, he may as well kiss his MVP bid goodbye. james, Durant, Paul, and even Tony Parker do not have to worry about being maligned for their performance on and off the court.
Melo was cognizant of how he cannot go at it alone. During the post-game interview last Sunday, he took the time out to acknowledge the other “four guys out there on the basketball court”, even admitting that they just didn’t make enough plays during the fourth quarter that could translate to points.
If we hark back to his words weeks ago about his willingness to let go of his MVP aspirations in favor of being able to work with his team all the way into the Championships, there might just be some hope left yet. Now if only we could see that hope showing some grit on the backcourt…