Carmelo Anthony can still beat teams by himself, you know
Usually, N.B.A. defenses respond to powerful offensive forces by making adjustments to contain them, or at least slow them down.
The New York Knicks have essentially experienced the exact reverse of this process with Carmelo Anthony in 2012-13.
No one had reason to think Anthony was anything other than an elite offensive player. Moreover, his history of forcing the action with well-defended shots meant Knicks opponents had even more reason to design defenses around stopping Anthony at all costs. And the tough schedule the Knicks faced early on--the Heat, the Spurs, the Grizzlies, and others--meant not only that teams would be focused on Anthony, but with a greater probability of success.
Accordingly, the fact that the Knicks managed to win seven of those first eight games came from Anthony's ability to recognize this common strategy, find his teammates, and that his teammates took full advantage of their open shots.
So sure, things like Ronnie Brewer's hot start, Jason Kidd's revitalization, and J.R. Smith's emergence all have helped to make the Knicks one of the best teams in the N.B.A. so far. But really, that's reflected glow of Carmelo Anthony.
Therefore, a night like Tuesday in New Orleans, when an Anthony-centric Knicks team destroyed the New Orleans Hornets, should come as no surprise, either. The Knicks have fostered that alternate path against some of the league's top teams, a reason for optimism in their ultimate pursuit of a championship.
But this 82-game season will be filled with games like the one against the Hornets, teams without the strategic wherewithal or personnel to limit the lethal offensive talents of Anthony.
The Knicks, and Anthony, recognized this right away. Anthony finished with 19 points in the first quarter on 8-of-9 shooting. Anthony didn't have to work particularly hard for any of his points, either. By the end of the first quarter, he'd outscored the Hornets, and the Knicks led, 29-17.
His supporting cast wasn't as impressive as they'd been for much of the season. Tyson Chandler, hampered by foul trouble, allowed the Hornets easier access to the basket in the first half than Knicks' opponents have had all season. Steve Novak struggled shooting the ball. Rasheed Wallace was a step slow all night, and shot 2-for-8.
It didn't matter. Anthony finished with 29 points in 28 minutes, and he and the rest of the starters sat out the fourth, allowing them to be fresher for Wednesday night's game against the Mavericks.
Over the course of the season, the secondary players on the Knicks are going to have their ups and downs. Chandler will occasionally run into foul trouble.
But Anthony will always be this offensive threat, and teams will need to account for him. When they don't, he can destroy them all by himself.