Down two points with the ball, it appeared that it was Carmelo Anthony’s time to display the clutch gene that has sports analysts raving about his late-game scoring. After posting an extremely efficient 29 pts on 16 shots, the stage was set for him to cement his place as the closer in NY. However, instead of taking one of the long two-pointers he is known for, (as he is often berated for early in games, and celebrated for when they are buzzer-beaters) he made the superior basketball decision to drive to the basket, but failed to see Samardo Samuels slide over and was called for an offensive foul with 1.8 seconds left. And after two Luke Harangody free throws, the game was over (the Knicks’ third excruciatingly close loss to the Cavs).
However, the real problem is that the ‘Bockers should never have been in that position in the first place. Give some credit to the Cavaliers: two back-to-back three-pointers by Anthony Parker and Baron Davis in the last minute gave them a four point lead they ultimately wouldn’t relinquish, but those shots came after the Knicks blew twelve point leads in both the first and fourth quarters. After promising that they would be much more focused after the disappointing loss to the Cavaliers last week, the leads seemed to lull the Knicks into relaxing defensively. The inability of Amar’e Stoudemire to score on putbacks after consecutive offensive rebounds was also distressing, although his stat line of 41 pts on 50% shooting was only marred by 5 turnovers.
So, is this game cause for concern? While the Knicks 0-3 record against the Cavs will certainly loom large if it is the difference between being the 6th or the 5th seed (or 6th vs 7th), I don’t think so. The Knicks actually won the rebound battle 39-37, and shot 54.5% from the floor, essentially what they shot in the Hornets game. However, the Cavaliers shot an incredible 57.1% from 3- perhaps somewhat attributable to weak D from the Knicks, but unlikely to be repeated either way. One key sequence that went against the Knicks that won’t be mentioned but was likely equally responsible for the loss: Melo being called for a charge earlier in the final minute as he passed out to Shawne Williams, who splashed the trey but had it waved off. Carmelo’s decision making is unlikely to be as poor in the future as it was tonight, too. If there is one positive to the statistical analysis that has been done on him, it is his phenomenal percentage relative to other stars in clutch situations, and he is more likely to shoot a jumper than drive, making it unlikely he’d be called for a charge again.
All in all, tonight was disappointing, but not something which is worth being too upset over. Chauncey will soon be back from his thigh bruise, hopefully improving our end-of-game execution, and our PNR defense has to get better (it can’t get much worse.) A Knicks fan’s final piece of consolation? It’s rather unlikely we’ll meet Cleveland in the playoffs.