As the city of Boston rallies around Monday's tragedy, the Celtics will rally as a unit, beginning their playoff series with the New York Knicks this weekend at Madison Square Garden.
It may seem counter-intuitive but throughout NBA history, only Wilt Chamberlain (twice), Michael Jordan (six times), and Shaquille O’Neal (once) have led the league in scoring and won NBA titles in the same year. The last three years, Kevin Durant has won the league’s scoring title (30.1, 27.7, 28.0), but only last year did Oklahoma City make the Finals (losing to Miami in five games). This year, Carmelo is edging out Durant, 28.7 to 28.1. The title will most likely be meaningful to Carmelo, as he has always been in LeBron’s shadow since entering the league, and only since moving to New York, has the spotlight really been on Anthony.
Kirk Goldsberry’s recent Grantland piece examines the rise of Carmelo’s scoring and the Knicks offense. In short, Anthony is taking shots from all over the court, in the flow of the offense, which is designed to take shots off of ball-movement, rather than the dribble or isolation plays. The Knicks have a new cast of unselfish players (Kidd, Felton, Prigioni) who are excellent and willing passers. Mike Woodson’s system has enabled Carmelo and J.R. Smith to flourish because all they have to do is whip the ball around the perimeter and be ready to shoot. Passing is contagious, and though the Knicks still depend too heavily on the three-ball to be considered a legitimate threat to Miami, the types of threes they take are generally good ones. Having players like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak enable Carmelo to find open space within the offense. Having Stoudemire anchored at the elbow restricts that fluid offensive movement, which is a significant reason the Knicks play better without Amare. However, the fluid ball movement of the Knicks and Rockets works best against weak defensive teams who have trouble communicating and rotating. Can this offense survive a high-quality defense? The Celtics will hope to provide the question in Round One.
Teams rarely win in the playoffs because of one player. J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton will be called on to provide the biggest shots when the game is on the line and the ball is forced out of Carmelo’s hands. But for the first three quarters, Boston needs to keep the ball in Carmelo's hands.
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Thanks for reading and Go C's,