Playoffs: Can Melo deliver this time?
April, 18, 2013
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
Carmelo Anthony's playoff history isn't pretty.
He failed to make it out of the first round in eight of nine postseasons.
He has won just 31.5 percent of his playoff games -- the lowest career winning percentage for a player averaging 20 or more regular-season points per game in NBA history, according to Elias.
And he's just 1-8 in two postseasons with the Knicks, including a 2011 sweep at the hands of the Celtics.
But that recent history means little to Anthony, his coach and his teammates as they prepare for a first-round series against the Celtics.
"[Carmelo's] learned to trust his teammates," Mike Woodson said Wednesday. "You go back to some of the great players. Until they begin to trust guys around them, they think they can beat a team themselves. And it doesn't work like that."
Things have worked quite well for Anthony and the Knicks this season, thanks in part to his unselfish play.
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsCarmelo Anthony averaged an NBA-best 28.7 points and grabbed 6.9 rebounds per game.
New York (54-28) finished the regular season with its highest win total since the 1996-97 season. The Knicks are the No. 2 seed in the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
And Anthony has been a driving force behind the Knicks' success all season long.
"He’s learned to manage his game, and he’s learned to help guys around him manage their game," Woodson said. "He's done a lot of things to put this team in this position."
But can he continue to do those things in the postseason?
That question will be asked again and again as the Knicks prepare for Game 1 against Boston on Saturday afternoon.
And it's a fair one.
After all, Anthony is shooting 41.9 percent in his playoff career, down from 45.6 percent in the regular season. He is averaging 27 points while shooting 40.1 percent from the field in nine career playoff games with the Knicks.
If that poor shooting continues this weekend, the Knicks will be in trouble against Boston.
But Anthony doesn't see it playing out that way. The NBA scoring champ is looking to do more than just score against the Celtics.
"My mindset right now is a lot different. Us as a team, [our] mindset is different," Anthony said earlier this week. "So we're going into this playoffs with a completely different mindset than we did a couple years ago against Boston."
What's different about that mindset, exactly? If you ask Anthony's teammates, they say their superstar teammate -- despite matching his career low of 2.6 assists per game -- is taking a more team-centric approach.
"He's challenged himself just to be a more complete player," Iman Shumpert said, echoing comments made by others in the Knicks locker room.
There's evidence to support that claim:
Anthony finished this season with a player efficiency rating of 24.8, the highest of his career and the fourth highest in the NBA. (PER measures a player's per-minute production).
"His focus and his mentality is definitely at an all-time high," longtime teammate Kenyon Martin said. "He’s been a scorer his whole life. So he thinks his chance of getting 2 is better probably than the next guy, which you have to -- that's honest. But he's making the right pass, making the right plays."
Anthony is well-aware of his playoff struggles. He knows that his ultimate legacy hinges on how he plays in the postseason. Especially in New York.
And he's OK with that. He's confident, after all, that things will be different this spring.
"Different personnel. Different team. Different style of play and just the focus that we have right now -- [we know] what's at stake," Anthony said. "We have a chance to do something with this team."
You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.