- Last Updated: 9:30 AM, May 4, 2012
- Posted: 2:25 AM, May 4, 2012
Perhaps we expect too much of Carmelo Anthony. We expect him to be the kind of player that despite all odds can will his team to victory the way LeBron James and Dwyane Wade always seem to do.
If there was a time to prove he was indeed capable of doing that, to prove he’s as special as his contract says he is, it was last night against the Heat in a must-win game to have any hope of the Knicks extending their best of seven series.
Amar’e Stoudemire was on the bench wearing a tailored gray suit with his surgically repaired left hand in a sling. And with Iman Shumpert lost in Game 1 with a severe knee injury, it was up to Anthony to show his skeptics he could be as clutch as New York wants him to be.
It was time to play the role of hero. Instead, Anthony laid a dud, shooting just 7 of 23 from the field en route to 22 points in the Knicks’ disheartening 87-70 loss at the Garden.
Some might point to a fourth quarter collapse as the reason the Knicks are down 0-3 in the series and set a NBA record with a 13th straight playoff defeat. But the tone for Anthony’s miserable night was set early when he made just 2 of his first 10 shots. Had it not been for some stirring play by the Knicks’ bench (22 points) and some inept shooting by the Heat, it wouldn’t have been as close as it was, 58-56 Miami, heading into the fourth quarter.
But that’s when LeBron James went nuts scoring eight straight points to open the fourth quarter and give the Heat a 66-56 lead. That’s what superstars are supposed to do. Their role is to take the game over and lead their team to victory. LeBron did that last night. Carmelo didn’t.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson defended Anthony’s performance, giving too much credit to the Heat defense.
“They’re loading up on him,” Woodson said. “They’re doubling him and forcing him to take tough shots.”
Anthony also credited the Heat defense.
“When you can’t score the basketball it makes it extremely hard,” Anthony said.
The Knicks were trying to smother James, too. He had struggled as much as Anthony until the fourth. He made just 3 of 9 shots through three quarters. But James will likely win the MVP award for doing what he did in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 of his 32 points to help the Heat outscore the Knicks 29-14 in the pivotal fourth while Wade controlled the third.
Meanwhile, Anthony, in the biggest game of his Knicks career thus far, never really was a factor. He had his moments when Shane Battier was defending him. But he couldn’t get the ball to drop when James was in his face. He missed numerous open jump shots early and then couldn’t get the ball through the net when he drove the paint. The leaderless Knicks converted just 31.9 percent of their field goal attempts. Anthony is shooting just 34.3 percent (22 of 64) in the three-game series.
He shrugged off his poor shooting by saying: “I’m missing shots I would normally make. I’m not worried about that.”
Hmmm. He talked of his team rallying in Game 4 on Sunday.
“We’re not moping around,” he said. “I’m not allowing us to do that.”
A performance like last night will rekindle discussion about whether the Knicks can win a championship with Anthony. His apologists will point out that he didn’t have a training camp this year; lost his point guard Jeremy Lin in March, and lost Stoudemire for last night’s Game 3. Sure there are nights when he’s a prolific scorer and looks worth all our emotion. But then there are nights like last night, the biggest of all nights, when you wonder whether he’s just a shooter and not a winner.Follow @NYPostsports