May 6 2013
Melo needs to play better
Seven games into the 2013 playoffs, the newly crowned NBA scoring champion is struggling mightily and his team has followed suit. Carmelo Anthony has yet to find his offensive stroke, recording a woeful 47.6 true shooting percentage. In large part due to the struggles of their cornerstone offensive weapon, the high powered Knicks offense of the regular season has found itself performing at the worst level of the remaining playoff teams. In fact, it’s not even close. The Knicks are scoring just 97.3 points per 100 possessions. Indiana comes in as the second worst offense. They’re scoring 101.5 points per 100 possessions, which is sizably better than their 2nd round counterpart.
Anthony hasn’t been the only Knick to struggle. Tyson Chandler hasn’t been fully healthy, hampering his mobility and ability to set good screens – a crucial part of the offense. JR Smith’s shooting has been marred in a playoff fog and Jason Kidd has fallen off the face of the Earth. Coach Woodson also deserves blame. His offensive play calling has been atrocious and his adjustments non-existent. By far the best offense has been the spread pick and roll, as it was during the regular season, but Woodson has opted for a seemingly endless amount of Anthony wing-isolations instead. The results have not been good. But that brings us back to Anthony.
This is pretty much what he wanted. He wanted to be “the guy”. He wanted control of the offense, where every possession would run through him and where he could touch the ball and impact the game as much as possible. He came through this season winning the scoring title and playing as efficiently as he has at any other point in his career. But the regular season is somewhat of a formality in the NBA for a franchise player. Reputations are built and/or crushed in the playoffs. We know Anthony’s past postseason struggles and there’s no reason to go into those now. But this is what he wanted and now he has it and he’s not performing. In fact, he’s been downright terrible.
His true shooting percentage of 47.6% is just slightly higher than that of Michael Beasley’s regular season mark. He’s made just 1 of his last 20 three point attempts. Anthony’s usage rate is up to 34.4, up from his league leading regular season mark of 32.2. The Knicks are going to him a ton and he’s not producing. So how can the Knicks help out their star player?
First off, they can run the offense. While isolations were a big part of the team’s offense during the regular season, they’ve been more of the majority of the offense during the postseason. Raymond Felton has been great and they need to run offense through him more. The Knick offense has been best running the spread pick and roll. Against Indiana, that’s what they’re going to need to do. The Pacers want the Knicks to isolate Anthony and Smith. They don’t want their defense being spread out to where New York can find open spot up looks and driving lanes. In game 1, the Knicks found a lot of success running side pick and rolls to create good angles for the roll men, as well as create open threes on the weak side.
If they can consistently run their offense, Anthony and the rest of the Knicks perimeter threats will get much better looks. We all know he’s better in catch and shoot situations. If he can get a few of these shots early in games, he possibly could catch rhythm and have more effective shooting performances.
In addition, they can use him more in pick and pop situations. He got one look in a pick and pop in game 1 and he missed the shot, but it was a good look nonetheless. I wrote about this in my series preview, but Indiana defends pick and rolls in a way that caters to the roll man shooting a mid-range jump shot. If Anthony is going to take those shots anyways, and he has, it should be out of some pick and pop action rather than in isolation.
Coach Woodson has not done a good job running this postseason offense. If the Knicks are going to isolate as much as they have, it will be very hard for them to get by the Pacers. I was encouraged somewhat by the increased ball movement we saw early in game 1, but the offense seemed to stagnate as the game progressed. In the fourth quarter, they picked up the pace a little bit and ran quicker sets though Anthony. If they continue to do this for the rest of the series, I will be okay with whatever the result is. I won’t be okay with them pitching him the ball every possession to have him go one-on-one. That is not a recipe for success. All that being said, Anthony needs to pick up his level of play. He’s not getting much help from the coach or the team around him, sans Shumpert and Felton, but he’s paid to be the superstar and he needs to start playing like one. If he can’t, the Knicks won’t get a chance to dethrone Miami as Eastern conference champions.
Follow Taylor on twitter @tarmosino