USA TODAY Sports
Anthony won this battle, but he rarely wins the war.
Stay with me here.
Carmelo Anthony owns the NBA's scoring title this season (28.7 points per game), and clearly sits as one of the top stars of the game. He finished Game 1 with 36 points and his 4-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter propelled the comeback victory.
But Melo remains one of the upper-echelon players in this league who many just can't figure out. He chucks up 30 or more shots regularly. He does not enjoy passing the ball. He plays a brand of “I'll hand-check but won't slide my feet” defense that might get excused by the refs, but not by opposing talent.
Translation: Anthony is one of the worst stars in the history of the NBA playoffs. This time last year, Wall Street Journal released data which supported its claim that he is the "biggest playoff loser." Among players who have appeared in at least 50 postseason games, his 18-36 win-loss record stands as the worst ever. That's a .300 winning percentage, and it's not a coincidence.
Many regard this season as the finest of Melo's 10-year career. But points aren't everything, especially when a player hoists a preposterous 22.2 shots per game (the second-most of his career) and only hits 45 percent of them.
And for an athletic guy, with size and 37 minutes of playing time per game, Anthony's 6.9 rebound average is poor. His impact in the team game on both sides of the floor is even worse.
The Syracuse alum averages 2.5 assists per 36 minutes, the worst of his career and an abysmal rate for a guy who touches the ball nearly every possession he plays. Carmelo essentially plays like the coach's son in little league—his ball-hogging, shot-chucking mentality leads everyone to believe he's great, but in actuality he's just holding the team back with his selfish play.
His defense also suffered this year. Per 36 minutes, he registered a career-low 0.8 steals and only half a block. He doesn't slide over on defense or take charges when someone penetrates the lane. Some stars adjust their game, recognizing that the "faces of the league" must play on both ends. Anthony must have missed that memo.
Paul Pierce, however, received it. He may have lost a step in his mid-30s but he has not lost the drive, defensive fire, passing ability and clutch factor. To be clear, he isn't as talented all-around as Anthony. But many NBA coaches would likely agree that his knowledge, team game and veteran skill set far exceed what Melo brings to the table, especially in the playoffs.
If Pierce can improve on his ugly 6-of-15 shooting numbers from Game 1, the Celtics could definitely steal one from the Knicks and head back to TD BankNorth Garden tied 1-1. That would leave the little league star a little pouty, right where Boston wants him.