Charley Rosen: Carmelo Burns LeBron as Knicks Win in Miami.
No surprise that the marquee matchup in New York’s 91-86 win in Miami pitted Carmelo Anthony versus LeBron James. Turned out that Melo won both the battle and the war.
Simply put, Anthony shredded LeBron’s paltry attempts to guard him. On several drives hoopwards — whether resorting to straight power-moves or tricky spins — Melo left James in the dust. Indeed, at the time Melo was putting the finishing touches on any given layup, James was beaten so badly that he wasn’t even posterized.
As ever, LeBron’s defensive stance was too upright, and the slightest ball-fake drew him completely off-balance. On one embarrassing sequence, LBJ was so mesmerized by the ball that he was unable to react when Anthony executed a nifty back-door cut, caught a lob pass from Amar’e Stoudemire, and scored on an uncontested dunk.
For sure Carmelo Anthony is the most versatile point-maker in the NBA — beating James from the low-post to wing isos and pull-ups — but the game at hand should finally put the lie to all the hype concerning LBJ’s being a top-notch defender.
Anthony’s numbers: 10-of-22 shooting, two assists, three turnovers, nine rebounds, and 29 points. As is his wont, Melo was most comfortable when put in isolation situations — his 12 iso opportunities led to scoring eight points. In grill-to-grill competition, Anthony scorched LeBron for a total of 20 points.
At the other end of the game, Anthony’s quick-footed, aggressive defense against LBJ was a revelation. In fact, Melo hasn’t played such ornery defense for such long stretches since he locked horns with Kobe Bryant in the fourth game of the 2009 Western Conference finals.
Anthony also demonstrated his hustle when, after having a lazy pass intercepted by Mario Chalmers, he chased down the resulting Miami fast-break and wound up blocking Chalmers’ attempted layup.And what about LeBron?
His stats certainly were impressive: 10-of-20 shooting, five assists, five turnovers, three steals, seven rebounds, and 27 points. But he hit only two of seven jumpers, forced several shots, tossed a number of haphazard passes, and seemed to be on cruise control for much of the game. James was also variously defended by Renaldo Balkman, Landry Fields and Bill Walker but managed to register only 11 points when operating against Melo. That’s because Anthony contested virtually every one of LeBron’s shots and managed to either tip or downright block at least three of them.Inevitably, the fast-paced, hard-fought (if somewhat loosely-played) game was decided in the waning minutes — and that’s when the self-appointed “Chosen One” got lost in the crowd. With the Heat trailing 87-86, LeBron went into his iso-mode against Melo, driving left and elevating to ostensibly score the go-ahead layup. But Melo maintained good defensive position, thereby forcing James to shift the ball from his left hand to his right hand, and giving Amar’e Stoudemire sufficient time to arrive on the scene and block the ensuing shot attempt.
For his encore, LBJ back-rimmed a 3-pointer that would have knotted the game.
Not that Anthony was New York’s only hero. In the last two minutes, Chauncey Billups hit a clutch off-balance flipper, then followed this with an even more timely 3-ball. During that same time span, Mr. Big Shot also came up with a pair of game-changing steals — one against Chalmers, the other on still another soft pass by LeBron.
Overall, the Knicks played 48 minutes of never-say-die basketball. And despite their lack of interior defense, New York was alert in poaching the passing lanes, competed on more than even terms (43-42) in the battle of the boards, and got better performances from their subs (19 points against 15 from Miami’s bench).
It’s too late in the season for the Heat to blame their failures on their still-evolving team chemistry. The truth is that Anthony, Billups and Stoudemire all stepped up in the clutch for New York, while Miami put the endgame entirely in LeBron’s hands.
If despite the dramatic, uplifting win, the Knicks have no chance whatsoever to win the championship, sub-par performances like this one strongly indicate that LeBron and his playmates will also be spectators come June.
And as Porky Pig once said, “Th-th-that’s all, folks!”