Carmelo Anthony was brilliant.
For one game of one first-round series, the dim lights of Madison Square Garden flickered a little brighter and the infamous Garden organ and fans' incessant chants of "Defense" prevailed. Anthony's herculean 41-point performance put an end to the longest playoff losing streak in NBA history, at 13 games. Against the league's most hated team, the Garden faithful got its two and a half hour glimpse of what they thought its triumvirate of Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler would bring. A visibly exhausted Carmelo played the entire third quarter, nailed huge buckets in the fourth and actually fought through screens on defense.
Meanwhile, an injured Stoudemire played through his self-induced pain to tally 20 points and 10 rebounds; the normally defensively challenged forward even switched onto Dwyane Wade on Miami's final possession and corralled him into the corner, where Landry Fields ultimately contested a brutally tough three-point attempt that could've won the game but rimmed short.
Chandler was his usual bruising self, protecting the rim, switching to force LeBron James into a contested pull-up jump shot late, failing to convert a single field goal, but coming up with nine rebounds and a timely blocked shot.
In reality, don't we have to wonder what this really signifies and what Anthony's effort actually means? Okay, at least for the sake of Knicks fans then, we have to wonder.
Down 3-1, with the series shifting back to South Beach, the Knicks are still (for lack of a better term) the Knicks, and Melo is still Melo. With Iman Shumpert having torn his ACL, Baron Davis with a dislocated knee and Jeremy Lin still recovering from a partially torn meniscus, Mike Woodson now turns to the heavy-footed Mike Bibby at the point. Bibby's inability to initiate the offense is so bad that J.R. Smith will likely perform lead guard duties in Game 5 as well. Smith himself was so inept in Game 4 that Anthony literally had to coax the ball away from him during a critical late-game stretch. And with that, let us return to Anthony, who has been vilified as a selfish star whose reputation often exceeds his actual performance.
In nine career postseasons, he is 17-37, which is the worst record of any active player with at least 50 playoff games. Even with Sunday's 89-87 win over the Heat, he has still lost 11 of 14 playoff games. At 27 years old, his only postseason series win came in 2009 with Denver. Despite his 41-point effort in Game 4, he is shooting under 40 percent in this series and 15 percent from three.
"The law of averages says he was due for a game like this," Miami's Shane Battier accurately said of Anthony.
If history is any indication, the law of averages also says that the Knicks will soon be vanquished: No team in league history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. And at the end of the day, Carmelo Anthony will once again be charged with superstar fraud -- capable of putting up big numbers and reaching the playoffs, but not capable of propelling his team to a world championship.
In other words, Anthony's 41-point Sunday has merely prolonged the inevitable: When the Knicks do succumb to Miami, Woodson will assuredly not be retained -- as James Dolan embarks on a wild goose chase for Phil Jackson -- leaving the team stuck with Stoudemire's $100 million contract, Melo's habitual ball-stopping ways and, most importantly, light-years away from legitimate title contention.
Hey, at least Knick fans have the Garden renovation to fall back on, right?
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