What Carmelo Anthony Must Do in the Playoffs to Finally Silence the Haters
The forward has only escaped the first round once in his nine-year NBA career, and has never done it with his current team.
Melo was brought to New York to lead the Knicks to playoff success, and until he does that, his postseason past will continue to be brought up.
In the regular season, Melo went a long way to silencing his critics. He proved he could play defense and team basketball, and did so en route to the first scoring title of his career. On the whole, his play was much more well-rounded and efficient than we had ever seen before.
Still, his regular-season dominance will mean nothing if it doesn't carry into the playoffs.
So far, in the first round series against the Boston Celtics, Anthony has had mixed success. In the first three games, he showed the toughness necessary in the playoffs, averaging an efficient 32 points as the Knicks took a 3-0 lead.
After two straight losses, however, Boston is now back in the series, and Anthony has to take a lot of the blame. His shot selection has been off, and as a result he has shot only 36 percent from the field.
In the two losses, Melo has relied way too much on isolation ball, and hasn't been shooting well enough to consistently draw the double-team. With Raymond Felton playing well, he needs to mix it up by allowing him to run the offense to create good looks with his penetration instead.
The Knicks still have the advantage in the series, but at this point it's too close for comfort. They shouldn't have allowed this series to go to Game 6, and they need to ensure that it doesn't go to Game 7.
If the Knicks lose the series, it goes without saying that Anthony will be ripped by New York media and fans. They'd be the first team in NBA history to lose a series after taking a three-game lead, which is beyond embarrassing to think about.
Putting up a good performance in a Game 6 win would be the perfect way for Melo to start quietening the haters. It would break the stigma that he can't get out of the first round, and prove that he's capable of bringing his best when it matters most.
With that said, a first-round victory shouldn't be enough for Melo. After the regular season he and the Knicks had, this is a team that should have its eyes set on a much deeper run.
As the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the minimum aim for the Knicks should be the conference finals. They can't be blamed if they lose to the Miami Heat without home-court advantage, but can be if they're knocked out before then.
The Knicks will have home-court advantage if they make it to the second round, and that should give them the advantage over the Atlanta Hawks or Indiana Pacers. Both teams—especially Indy—play solid defense, and Anthony will have to step up to lead his team through the series.
If Melo can break down the defense with the efficient, smart play he displayed in the regular season, he'll put the Knicks in a great position to take the series.
In year three, surrounded with a supporting cast that he can trust, Melo and the Knicks should be genuine contenders by now. They certainly have the talent to be, but if they don't make it to the conference finals and play a close series against the Heat, it's hard to justify giving them that title.
The keys for Melo will be trust, effort and performing in the clutch, all of which we know he's capable of at his best. He showed us that in the regular season, but playoff basketball is a different animal.
Melo has a lot of pressure on him in the 2013 playoffs, but there's reason to believe he can rise to the occasion. It's about time he got out of the first round and made a deep run, and New York is waiting.
Anthony has emerged as a true superstar this year, but he'll need a big postseason to prove he's for real. If not, the doubters will run rampant, and frankly, they'll have a point.
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