Carmelo Anthony Off to a Scintillating Start for the Denver Nuggets

Sean StancillSenior Writer IOctober 30, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 28:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets looks on while awaiting a free throw against the Utah Jazz during NBA action at Pepsi Center on October 28, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Jazz 114-105.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Coming off an emotion-charged opening night win and a sleepless night, the Nuggets were perhaps due for a letdown.

It certainly seemed that way as they trudged into the Rose Garden Thursday night against yet another division rival in the challenging Northwest Division.

Trailing by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter and by five with less than six minutes remaining, Carmelo Anthony yet again willed the Nuggets to victory and put them on his back.

Anthony poured in 41 points (19 in the fourth quarter) in 41 minutes while attempting 19 free-throws; eight of which came in the proverbial fourth quarter for the Nuggets. He also added six boards in response to a dormant third quarter and accounted for 21 of Denver's final 25 points.

A night earlier, Carmelo dropped 30 points and grabbed eight boards in their win over Utah.

But for now, let's take an advanced look at what exactly made Thursday's performance so special:
Anthony continued to operate from the post, serving as his vantage point, and sliver his way into the paint for contested buckets. His desire to fight for the ball has improved and so has his footwork when establishing presence in the low post.
He was only whistled for one foul when fighting for position, however, his defender also dispensed a fair share of contact, as well.
By constantly switching position on the low block, Anthony's defender must adjust to his movement or else Anthony will take advantage by either executing a spin move and exploding to the rim or turning around and burying the jumper over the lagging defender. 

Because of this, opponents must follow his every move, thus allowing Melo to precisely control where he receives the ball and how he will react; similar to how a driver behind the wheel of the car can dictate the exact speed, direction, and destination of where the vehicle will go. Insert Carmelo as the driver and the defender as the car, and your equation is complete.
His length is a blatant asset with his back to the basket and makes the jobs of Chauncey Billups and Ty Lawson easier when delivering him the ball. It allows for a bigger window to dump the ball into and less of risk for a steal or a deflection by the defense.
He was assaulted at various points in the game and a slight portion of that contact was self-induced. Unlike most scorers in the league, with contact in sight, Anthony opens up his stance in order to receive more contact and better his chances of getting to the free-throw line.
This was most evident with Denver trailing 91-90 with 2:24 remaining in the final period. Anthony slipped past Martell Webster and thrust his shoulder into LaMarcus Aldridge's outstretched arms. Aldridge clearly defended the play the right way, but Carmelo being the crafty veteran that he is assessed the situation perfectly and did what any elite scorer does: When there is no contact, create it.
On the defensive side of the ball, Anthony was assigned the task of defending Brandon Roy after Anthony Carter and Arron Afflalo displayed insufficient services early in the fourth.
After rotating with Carter and allowing a few points by Roy, Melo clamped down on the two-time All-Star, confusing him with his foot-speed and pestering him with his length. Roy's only points in the quarter came on three free-throws, as he preceded to go 0-3. 
More importantly, all of Roy's shots were jumpers from 21 feet and out.
Carmelo Anthony has roared out of the tunnel focused; for all his doubters and subtractors, that will prove to be a bad thing, yet his biggest motivation.
He's scored 71 points in his first two games of the season and both his field-goal percentage and three-point percentage are at 50 percent or better. Anthony's been amazing in the first two contests of the season, and though it may be premature to begin the talk, Anthony could become a strong candidate for MVP if he continues to best or come anywhere near the performances he has put out thus far.
On a related note, Melo's 41 were the most points by a visiting player in Portland since February 1988, when Karl Malone set the mark. One more point than both Michael Jordan and Larry Bird totaled against Portland in their playing careers.
More importantly, Denver now has two wins over Northwest division rivals salted away, and with good measure, considering the fact that they have three remaining games against Portland and two versus Utah.