After the New York Knicks suffered a sound defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, Carmelo Anthony haters were silenced.
For years, New York Knicks fans have heard the same tired refrain: Carmelo Anthony isn’t clutch. He isn’t a winner. He isn’t going to do anything for the Knicks.
However, Thursday night’s contest against the Golden State Warriors demonstrated just how badly the Knicks need Anthony and what he brings to the team.
Most glaring on the night for Knicks fans was the play of Kristaps Porzingis, who was undeniably poor going up against one of the best defensive players in the league, Draymond Green. Porzingis shot just 4-of-13 on the night for a whopping eight points. He was -21 on the floor. It appeared as if all the progress KP made this offseason on his game had been stopped in his tracks and no one could figure out why.
It’s because Melo was not on the floor.
Frustrating as he is sometimes, Melo offers the Knicks a legitimate scoring option from virtually every spot on the floor. He remains one of the most devastating isolation players in the game of basketball, capable of using his arsenal of jab steps, pump fakes, and dribble moves to create the minuscule amount of space he needs to get a shot off.
The Knicks missed that second scorer against Golden State, allowing the Warriors to key in on KP and stifle the sophomore big man offensively.
Furthermore, Melo provides a psychological safety blanket for Porzingis that is absolutely crucial for his confidence. KP has remarked on numerous occasions how Anthony has taken him under his wing and mentored him, teaching the young Latvian the ins and outs of being a superstar in the NBA. On nights where Porzingis’ shots simply aren’t falling, he knows he can lean on Melo as a source of support, but also, offense. Very few young players have that luxury, but it appears Kristaps has gotten used to it, as evidenced by his struggles last night.
KP has remarked on numerous occasions how Anthony has taken him under his wing and mentored him, teaching the young Latvian the ins and outs of being a superstar in the NBA. On nights where Porzingis’ shots simply aren’t falling, he knows he can lean on Melo as a source of support, but also, offense. Very few young players have that luxury, but it appears Kristaps has gotten used to it, as evidenced by his struggles last night.
As a man notorious for showing up in the big moment, Carmelo likely would have tried to put on a show against Golden State. It’s a national television game against the prohibitive favorite to win the championship. That’s tailor made for a big Melo night.
However, the realities of having a superstar over 30 unfurled themselves in Oakland, requiring Melo to get some much-deserved rest against the Warriors. While it’s not the outcome Knicks fans were hoping for, it certainly makes sense for the long-term view of the team.
Additionally, it’s very likely that even with Carmelo playing, this still would have resulted in a loss for the Knicks. Starting point guard Derrick Rose was also out with back spasms, and teams missing two starters typically don’t beat fully healthy ones. Especially when that full healthy team is this edition of the Warriors.
However, in Melo’s absence, the Knicks illuminated exactly what he brings to this team. New York lacked not only a second scorer, but a killer instinct against Golden State, and could not capitalize on their stifling defense on the offensive end.
Sure, the emergence of Ron Baker is icing on the cake for Knicks fans, but this team sorely missed Carmelo against Golden State and will continue to do so when he sits out this season.
Ultimately, a 13 point loss to the defending Western Conference champs is far from the end of the world, but it was a learning experience for both the Knicks and their fans. While he may frustrate fans at times, Melo remains the heart and soul of this New York team, and will likely remain that way until he retires or leaves the Knicks.