As excited as I am by their heart and performance against one of the top teams in the NBA, I'll wait to see what the Knicks do against Orlando tomorrow before I go crazy.
But still, let's talk about one of the final plays of last nights game. The one in which Amar'e Stoudemire showed brilliant help defense by coming over from the weak side and blocking LeBron James' lay-up - essentially securing the win for the knicks.
Here it is:
From the moment I saw this play live, one thing stuck out at me:
Look at how much room Carmelo gave LeBron.
I mean seriously, look.
It must be close to three feet.
Carmelo is below the foul line when LeBron is around the top of the key.
LeBron could have easily pulled up for a mid-range jumper - which would essentially have been wide open. Even if you think that Carmelo would have be able to contest a pull-up, well okay, LeBron still could have stepped back into a jump shot to provide himself with another foot of space - still within mid-range.
In basketball, INCHES make a difference in getting a shot off (check out Billups clutch three over Wade). On this play, we're talking about FEET of space.
Listen to Hubie Brown say "give Anthony credit for taking away the lane."
Okay, give Anthony credit for that.
And give Stoudemire credit for an amazing play.
But you know what?
The truth is if that were Paul Pierce, the Knicks would have lost.
If that were Kobe, the knicks would have lost.
If that were Kevin Durant, the knicks would have lost.
If that were Dirk Nowitzki, the Knicks would have lost.
They all would have hit the mid-range jumper.
I get it.
LeBron is a physical specimen with incredulous talents. And if you can get to the basket at will, as he can, then keep doing it. The problem is in a real game with real defense it won't be so easy. And you better believe, as per the game plan, help will be coming.
This is the difference between LeBron and many other players in the top-ten category, including Melo.
LeBron is an all-world talent, that is the MVP over the course of the season because of how much better he can make a team with his muti-dimensional play. He's athletic, he's fast, and he's powerful.
Carmelo, relatively speaking, is none of those.
BUT, Carmelo is skilled.
Having watched Melo closely the past three games, as has most New Yorkers, he's quite adept at creating space with a plethora of moves to get his jump shot off. In fact, he seems content to pull up for the mid-range rather than drive to the basket.
I have always felt, it is more important to be skilled than talented/athletic (ask Steve Nash)
Having a mid-range jumper may be one of the more deadliest weapons a basketball player can have. I can't tell you how many times I see guards - at any level - get by their man or come off screens and then drive all the way to the basket to have their shot contested or blocked. Why? Just pull up for a mid-range jump shot! Just create space and elevate!
Now I know, always settling for a jump shot is not a good thing. Some people think it makes you a passive player. But the truth is, having that mid-range jumper MAKES you a better driver, as defenders are more willing to bite on a fake or get blown by as they push up on you. In a do or die situation, it becomes a necessity.
Over the course of a season, LeBron wins out because of his abilities. There is no denying that. But when games, perhaps even the season, comes down to one play in the final moments.... Melo may be better than LeBron.
The reality is, this is something LeBron should know and have mastered - being the best player in the world. Well, maybe the reality is that I have to clarify that statement - maybe LeBron is just the best talent in the world. Maybe he won't have the best player title until he is also the most skilled player in the world.