“Just” 20 points?
Yes, for a player averaging 29.3 points this season and 25 points over the course of his career, 20 points is an off game. In 2012-13, only the Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards have held Anthony to 20 points or less.
That Wizards game doesn’t really count, though. It was the second-fewest minutes Anthony has played this season, and after three quarters the New York Knicks had the game in hand (86-65).
But those other three teams have Anthony’s number.
The Spurs, in particular, have been clamping down on Anthony since his first days in the league. They’ve held him to 20 points per game over his whole career.
What have the Spurs been doing all this time to slow Anthony down? What are the Celtics and Grizzlies doing this season?
Though the Knicks beat the Spurs twice this season, Anthony was not his typical scoring self in either game. Early in the season, the Spurs held him to his lowest point total of the year: nine points. In the two teams’ second contest, Anthony managed 23 points.
Gregg Popovich employs double and triple teams all game long against Carmelo, forcing him to pass. The Spurs let Anthony receive the ball, but either give him no space to shoot it or force a low-percentage shot.
ESPN quoted Anthony following his nine-point performance,"Pop did a great job of not even double-teaming me, but triple-teaming me; every time I touched the ball, making me see three guys."
And again, after his 23-point game, "That's their scheme, to try to take me out of the game," Anthony said. "Just a matter of us making shots when we swing the ball.”
Physical Play, Entanglements
With Amar’e Stoudemire out the first two months of the season and now coming off the bench, Anthony has been thrust into the No. 4.
It’s worked out magnificently for the Knicks thanks to mismatches against larger, more lumbering power forwards. They are just not quick enough to corral Anthony.
Not all of them, though. Kevin Garnett, for one, is quick and aggressive enough to tangle it up with Anthony, and that’s exactly what he did in the Celtics win. He was using the smack talk as bait to close the distance between he and Anthony.
Anthony should have focused on staying away from Garnett, eluding him and creating space for shots. Instead, the two forwards were in each others’ grills all night.
The Grizzlies are another team both too big and too fast for Anthony and the Knicks. CBSSports recounted New York’s first loss of 2012-13:
The Memphis Grizzlies exploited the Knicks small lineup with Carmelo Anthony at power forward…It was truly the first time a team could show the Knicks real size at the four [Zach Randolph] and five [Marc Gasol] and it created all sorts of problems.
Randolph out-rebounded Anthony 15-3, cutting off hope for second-chance points.
The Dallas Mavericks are another team that historically has had success in slowing down Anthony. Getting Carmelo into early foul trouble is one of the Mavs’ tactics.
The only game Anthony fouled out of this season was the Knicks’ loss to the Mavericks. In New York’s win against Dallas, the Mavs tried anyway. Anthony finished with five fouls.
In both losses to the Celtics and Grizzlies, Melo finished with five, as well.
The Knicks are 5-7 when Carmelo finishes with four fouls or more. They are 17-2 when he has three or less.
Push Anthony to the Corner
Baseline corners are the weakest shots in Anthony’s arsenal. He’s shooting only 30 percent if kept far enough on the outside.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of Jan. 17, 2013. Source data courtesy basketball-reference.com.