No one expected the New York Knicks to go undefeated during the 2013-14 season, but they let one slip away Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls, a team that it seems like they have only beaten a handful of times over the course of the last two decades.
The reason for the defeat is simple- MeloBall.
Call it Hero ball, MeloBall or whatever, but the end result is always the same- failure.
I often dread when the Knicks are in close games late in the fourth quarter because you know exactly what you are going to see down the stretch. That is simply Carmelo Anthony holding the basketball and forcing up contested jumper after contested jumper. That recipe works occasionally, but its success rate over a large sample size is not good.
The Knicks showed a lot of heart coming back from a double digit deficit in the fourth quarter against a very tough team, on the road.
But once that comeback was complete, the gameplan shifted to MeloBall.
The Knicks got back into the game with an attack based on ball movement as everyone on the floor played a role. Predictably though that stopped once they tied the game as the Knicks last four possessions were awful, consisting on Anthony settling for contested jumpers.
Now I have no problem with Anthony having the ball late in games. It makes sense to put the ball in your best player’s hands. However the strategy has to be better.
Take the ball to the basket.
A lot can happen there, especially on the final possession.
Anthony is likely to draw contact and get to the free-throw line or here’s a thought, kick the ball out to an open shooter.
In the last four minutes of the game, the Knicks missed seven shots, all on bad possessions.
Raymond Felton missed an open three coming off an offensive rebound and one was an ill-advised floater in the lane.
The other five were all misses by Anthony and they were all contested mid- to long-range jump shots.
Mike Woodson‘s strategy must change in crunch time. Giving the ball to Anthony makes sense, but not the way things run late in games. They may pull out a game here and there when Anthony heats up late, but history shows that they will get the short end of the stick on most occasions.
Last season Melo went 1-for-10 on last-minute shots that would have either tied or won a game. The reason being is he settles for contested jumpers every single time. The opposition knows what is coming and he makes himself easier to defend, especially against a team like the Bulls that can throw a defender like Luol Deng his way.
The one time Melo made a big shot last season in a game’s final minutes you ask?
A shot in the paint against the Atlanta Hawks to win a game.
The key word there was in the paint.
Over the past three seasons, Anthony has fared worst in the clutch (36%) when shooting from mid-range. He is easy to defend when he goes strictly isolation and simply settles for mid-range shots with a hand in his face.
In those same late game situations over the course of three years, Melo shot 50 percent from inside the paint and 44 percent from behind the arc.
So who is to blame here?
Sure Anthony deserves some blame for not executing in situations that he is expected to come through in, but Woodson deserves a lot of the blame as well for allowing the Knicks offense to become stagnant and predictable.
Eventually the strategy has to change.
Hopefully it does before it is too late.
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