As the NBA Playoffs beckon, one of the world’s most iconic teams is positioning itself in an attempt to reclaim its former glory. The New York Knicks have not won a playoff series since 2000, but have been on a rollercoaster of a season which has finally led them into something resembling their best form as the season closes. Linsanity has come and gone, Mike Woodson has replaced Mike D’Antoni as Head Coach, leading the team to 7-3 in their last ten games and two nights ago Carmelo Anthony finally reminded the Knicks fans why the organisation gave up so much trade bait to secure his services.
The Knicks defeated the league leading Chicago Bulls 100-99 in an overtime thriller, which saw Melo explode for 43 points and knock down a game-tying three-pointer in normal time with twelve seconds left. Finally, he capped it all off by sinking the game-winning three with eight seconds remaining. Long considered one of the most ‘clutch’ players in the NBA from his time at the Denver Nuggets, the reappearance of such talents could not be more timely for the Knicks if they are to overcome their likely first round playoff opponents; the Miami Heat.
Anthony’s big night was in stark contrast to the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, who struggled in his first game back after missing twelve games through injury. He notched 29 points, but missed two free throws with nineteen seconds remaining in regulation and then missed a game winning lay-up in overtime. It once again raised the importance of the ‘clutch’ players in the league and which superstars could be relied on to seal games for their teams in the dying seconds.
Long considered one of the most ‘clutch’ players in the NBA from his time at the Denver Nuggets, the reappearance of Anthony’s talents could not be more timely for the Knicks.
Anthony stands alongside the elite in the NBA in terms of his clutch reputation. The likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Kevin Durant are the most recognisable names, whilst Chris Paul and Kevin Love are certainly banging on the door. However, the clutch gene is certainly not guaranteed to all the stars.
Lebron James is by far the most puzzling player in this discussion; he demolished the Boston Celtics, followed by the Chicago Bulls in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals and was an unstoppable force in the fourth quarter in both series. However, at the grandest stage James fell woefully short in the fourth quarter, seemingly displaying no bravery or desire to take the last shot with the game on the line. In short, the majority of NBA fans willing the Mavericks to a victory over the “Big Three” of Miami were able to sit back and openly mock the struggles of the league’s premier player and his apparent inability to make the clutch plays when it mattered most.
Ironically the stage may be set for Anthony to showcase his clutch gene against Lebron in the first round of the playoffs. With both players squaring off at Small Forward, there is every chance that either player may end up taking the ball with the game hinging on the final shot. James is lauded for being the superior defender and is having one of the best statistical seasons ever seen in the NBA, but questions will hang over his ability to be “the guy” in the final moments until he conquers his demons and finally wins an NBA Championship. Meanwhile, Anthony clearly has no fear about the pressures of taking the last shot. If Amar’e Stoudemire can regain fitness in time and make a positive impact on the Knicks play, Anthony’s ability in clutch time could make all the difference as to whether the Knicks can pull off an upset or whether the Heat bulldoze their way into the second round.
And let’s be honest, everyone loves a buzzer beater.