Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks currently find themselves in a battle in their first-round playoff series versus the Boston Celtics. After taking a 3-0 series lead, the Knicks have lost back-to-back games and take a 3-2 series lead into a Game 6 on the Celtics’ home court. For the Knicks, a series win or loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony is widely regarded as one of the best individual scorers in the NBA. He has scored over 17,000 points and has averaged 25.0 points per game during his 10-year career. He averaged 28.7 points per game and led the NBA in scoring during the regular season.
However, Anthony has received much criticism throughout his career concerning his scoring at times. He has been labeled as a ball-dominator or ball-stopper throughout his career, meaning that ball movement tends to stop once the ball is in his hands. Likewise, he is also known as a volume shooter, meaning that he must take a large number of shots in order to score his points. That has been showcased many times throughout this playoff series.
During the regular season, Carmelo Anthony shot 44.9 percent from the field and averaged 22.2 shot attempts per game. While those numbers are not that great, Anthony cut down his reliance on isolation plays during the regular season. He relied on isolation plays on only 26.3 percent (down from 34.3 percent last year) of his regular-season possessions. When Anthony did isolate he scored an effective 0.915 points per possession. Anthony’s decreased dependence on isolation plays helped lead to increased ball movement (and increased success) by the Knicks...during the regular season.
However, during the playoffs the Knicks’ ball movement has become almost non-existent at times and a large part of that can be attributed to Carmelo Anthony. His percentage of possessions in isolation is up to 44.7 percent in the playoffs and as a result, his scoring efficiency has decreased. He is averaging 30.8 points in the playoffs thus far but his shooting percentage is a woeful 39.4 percent and he is only scoring 0.724 points per possession.
Anthony has only six total assists thus far in the Knicks’ five playoff games. He only averaged 2.6 assists per game during the regular season and has only averaged 3.1 assists per game throughout the course of his career. In many ways he is a one-dimensional player—a dynamic scorer whose focus is solely on scoring—and he has become even more one-dimensional in the playoffs.
If the Knicks hope to get past the Celtics and to advance deep into the playoffs, Anthony will need to cut down on his isolation plays and look to become more of a facilitator in the Knicks offense. The Knicks’ offense relies heavily on Carmelo to be a scorer but by showing a willingness to involve his teammates more, Anthony can make his job as a scorer much easier. The Knicks will have to recapture more of their regular season formula in Game 6 or they could be facing an unlikely first-round exit again in this year’s playoffs.