The playoffs are full of superstar and amazing performances and it truly becomes the barometer of a player’s legacy of how they perform under pressure. Michael Jordan. Larry Bird. Karl Malone. Charles Barkley. Bernard King. Each one of those names brings different emotions and feelings for the player. The first two are champions and their efforts in the playoffs were able to raise their team to multiple championships. The next two seemed to have jaw dropping performances but shrunk when the stakes were the highest in the NBA Finals.
Bernard King was a scoring machine for the Knicks during the 1980s until his knees got blown out and he lost his explosiveness. Bernard could score from anywhere on the floor but was never at any time considered the best player of his time falling behind Bird, Magic, and Isiah Thomas. However, his 1984 performance against the Pistons and Celtics were truly astounding. In the first round, he averaged 43 points willing his team to victory. In the series clincher, Bernard put up a 44 spot battling against Isiah. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, he took a cast of Bill Cartwright, Ray Williams, Rory Sparrow, and Truck Robinson to 7 games against the eventual champs, the Celtics led by Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Cedric Maxwell, and Dennis Johnson. Ummmm….how is that even possible with the cast he had.
So now that I have given you the longest introduction possible, let’s get to the point of the column. I have long felt Carmelo Anthony is Bernard King 2.0 in that he is a scoring machine and right now seems to fall into that second tier star behind Kobe, LeBron, Wade, and Duncan. In game 1 of the series, Melo had a rough go of it. In the opening few minutes of the game, he got two quick early fouls and sat out the rest of the first quarter. He played well in the 2nd quarter though. However, in the 2nd half, he proceeded to shoot 1-11 from the field. I was critical of Melo and his shot selection at the end of the game because Amare was playing so well and killing Kevin Garnett on the block. On the final possession of the game, Carmelo took a contested 25 foot jumper instead of driving it or getting it to Amare. One of the things that make superstars great is bouncing back from criticism or a bad game and coming up large.
In Game 2, Carmelo came up very large for the Knicks as Chauncey Billups was out from a game 1 injury and Amare injured his back during warmups and was pretty much a non factor the whole first half before being ruled out after halftime. As for Carmelo, he kept the Knicks in the game with a crazy game. He finished with 42 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks. Think about that a second….42 points, 17 rebounds. His toughest shot was the fall away three with Pierce draped all over him that swished right through the net to give the Knicks a 3 point lead with just over two minutes to play, but all his shots seemed to literally hit nothing but net. The best players on the floor with Melo for the Knicks were Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries, Roger Mason, and Bill Walker. I mean there are D League teams that have more talent than that foursome. There was no reason the Knicks should have even been in the game let alone winning in the final minutes. In the Knicks final possession, Carmelo knew the double team was coming and made a gorgeous pass to his teammate by the hoop but Garnett made a great defensive play and snuffed it out getting the Celtics the ball back. Yes the Knicks came up short again to the Celtics, 96-93, but Carmelo Anthony submitted an all-time pantheon performance in the playoffs.