The Knicks have been putting together some spells of fantastic, team-oriented play. They are often punctuated with lackluster defense and sputtering offense, but Derek Fisher is still chiseling out a rotation and the players largely haven't done enough to force his hand. You could make a case for Langston Galloway, but other than him, no one has established that they deserve more. The thing is, the Knicks still live and die with what Carmelo Anthony is able to contribute.
Carmelo still has the chops to wrecking-ball his way through guys on the block, jab step them off a cliff and pull up faster than Ned Nederlander. It's those threats that bring a shady cast of extra defenders his way. Let's take a look at some of his most charitable donations from Tuesday night.
Lately, Melo has been smart enough to draw the extra defenders and make the cut-throat cross-court pass or pull a switching opponent into open water and make the defense reconsider their strategy, hen *zip*, find the open teammate. Last night, Melo was cooking that potato leek in the double boiler, as well as preparing some extra-pass stock, the culmination of which closed out the third quarter. Melo passed up the heroic attempt he traditionally feasts on in order to let Galloway eat off an even bigger plate.
In the first half, Melo was getting doubled along the sideline heading right. There's no team in the league that wants to deal with this guy getting a full head of steam headed to the rack (much less a team he's dumped 62 on) so it makes sense to take away his right hand. The Hornets got overly concerned, though, and were unable to keep track of their own guys. Here we have an instance with five guys ball-watching as Carmelo gets around a Lopez screen.
Kemba Walker has cheated all the way into the paint, leaving Jose Calderon wide open in the left corner. Kemba is quick enough to try and close out but Jose pitches to Arron Afflalo, who gets an easy look because his man, Nic Batum, is slow to react and gets spun completely around.
Other times in this type of scenario, Melo was able to get it straight to Afflalo for the shot. If Kristaps Porzingis was the screener, he was able hit the Flamingo for the open three at the top of the key. Then if the double didn't come, he trolleyed his way into the paint to wreak havoc that way.
As the game progressed and ground to a slower pace, Melo was fed more in the low post. Here again, every single Hornet is transfixed by Melo's grandeur and Jeremy Lin gets caught doubling one pass away. Carmelo lets Lin creep ever so close, with Batum pinned on his hip, and then he slings one out to Galloway who is ready to catch, finish the last chapter of his book, take off his reading glasses, put down his pipe and bang that three-pointer.
Obviously the team has plenty of work to do on both ends, and they need to solidify their rotations sooner than later. But this is nice stuff from the team's leader. Should it continue, it will only serve to lift the entire team. Melo is a fantastic chef and I, for one, am smelling a legacy season from him.