Carmelo Anthony of Knicks Has Failed Repeatedly in Playoffs

Alone on a podium late Thursday night, wrapped himself in comfortable catchphrases and verbal deflections. The Miami Heat had not shut him down. He was simply “missing shots that I normally make.”

The , down three games to none in the playoffs, were not defeated. “Our confidence is high.”

Anthony’s tone was unwavering, his faith absolute. This is how elite talent speaks, with a self-belief that borders on the absurd and occasionally veers into self-delusion.

The Knicks, who have been outscored by 60 points in the series, are not going to be the first N.B.A. team (out of 100) to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Anthony, who is shooting .344 and has twice as many turnovers (12) as assists (6), is not going to lead them back.

The Knicks will soon exit the postseason, their 12th straight year without winning a series. Their 13-game losing streak is the longest in playoff history.

“I wasn’t here for them losses,” Anthony bristled this week, though he has now been here for seven.

His dismissiveness misses the larger point: the Knicks traded a bounty for Anthony — four starters and three draft picks — to end their decade-long drought, to make May and June matter again at Madison Square Garden. Anthony demanded a trade on the premise that he, along with Amar’e Stoudemire, would turn the Knicks into a reasonable facsimile of the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade Heat.

So far, the Anthony-Stoudemire Knicks have accomplished no more than the Stephon Marbury-Tim Thomas Knicks (swept in 2004).

They have had their misfortune — injuries to Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups in 2011, injuries to Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert in 2012 — but great teams find a way to win. And when they fail, the great players absorb, reflect and rededicate themselves.

Anthony is not the reflective type. He has rarely taken responsibility for his team’s failures, preferring to shift blame toward injuries, coaches or the playbook. But the N.B.A. is a star-driven league, and Anthony — a star by reputation, if not achievement — must eventually confront his own résumé.

In nine postseasons, Anthony is 16-36 — the worst record among active players with at least 50 playoff games. He has won a first-round series only once, in 2009. Since then, he has lost 11 of 13 playoff games. If the Knicks lose Sunday, it will be Anthony’s third time getting swept in five years.

Anthony shot .375 against the Boston Celtics in last year’s sweep. He is shooting miserably against Miami, but he is still taking 30 percent of his team’s field-goal attempts while the offense stagnates and the Heat loads up its defense.

Playing Meloball — in which Anthony dominates the offense, usually in ball-pounding isolation sets — got the Knicks through a critical late-season period, without Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, with a 9-4 record. Anthony was brilliant in that stretch, shooting high percentages and collecting 30-point games while the defense did the rest.

But we are now seeing the limitations of Meloball. It can win 45 to 50 games (as it did in Denver), but it cannot beat a team as talented and disciplined as the Heat.

Stoudemire hardly saw the ball in the first two games of this series. The Knicks’ 3-point shooters are not getting open looks, because the ball is not moving.

Anthony is a great scorer. He is not yet a great player, because he does not consistently elevate his teammates. He averaged a modest 3.6 assists per game this season, and has a career average of 3.1.

By contrast, consider his close friends from the 2003 draft class: Wade has averaged 6.2 assists per game for his career, and James 6.9. Both Miami stars can control a game through their playmaking alone. The same goes for Kobe Bryant (4.7 career average), when the mood strikes.

In Cleveland, James led his teams deep into the playoffs (including the 2007 finals) despite a lackluster lineup, proving that a selfless star is infinitely more valuable than a single-minded gunner.

Kurt Rambis — a former teammate of Magic Johnson and a former coach of Bryant — put it best in an ESPN podcast, saying of Anthony: “One of the things he has to learn is how to involve his teammates more. There’s a lot more to winning ballgames than just scoring points.”

George Karl and Mike D’Antoni tried in vain to sell Anthony on this virtue, costing Karl years of aggravation and D’Antoni his job.

Initially, D’Antoni asked Anthony to play point forward, giving him the ball control he desired, but with equal responsibility for scoring and playmaking. Anthony accepted the role grudgingly and played it poorly.

Once Lin emerged, the Knicks’ playmaking needs were resolved. But Anthony was uncomfortable in a point guard-dominated offense and admitted as much a week before D’Antoni resigned.

So far, the only offense that seems to please Anthony is one where everyone else passes and he shoots.

“Melo is going to have to raise his game,” Coach Mike Woodson said Friday, suggesting that Anthony needs some growth to escape his personal playoff rut. “He’s got to change that.”

Woodson, an interim coach with no leverage, has necessarily catered to Anthony’s desires. With a little job security, he might not be so forgiving. Phil Jackson, if he were enticed by the Garden’s riches, would certainly demand a more team-oriented game.

Anthony will be 28 this month — old enough to be considered a veteran, young enough to learn. The Knicks will never be an elite team until he matures. And he will never truly be a star until he evolves.

Knicks Rest Chandler, and Are Able to Exhale at the Finish

Before they took the court against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, the Knicks took a calculated gamble, choosing to rest Tyson Chandler, their defensive conscience, even if it might mean giving up a game and a chance to change the standings.

It all turned out O.K. — albeit by mere inches and mere tenths of a second — when Atlanta’s Marvin Williams blew a driving dunk at the final buzzer, allowing the Knicks to escape with a 113-112 victory.

Amar’e Stoudemire and converged on Williams as he drove the lane, challenging him just enough to prevent the basket. On a day when neither team played much defense, that was the only stand that mattered.

“It was a good drive by him,” said Stoudemire, who looked lively in his second game back from a back injury. “He attacked the rim well. I think Melo and myself both had our hands on the ball, so it was tough for him to make that basket.”

Replays showed that Williams did not release the ball before the buzzer sounded, which was also a credit to the Knicks, for delaying him just long enough on the drive. Williams had intended to hand the ball back to Joe Johnson, but Iman Shumpert cut off the pass.

Replays also appeared to show some contact between Stoudemire and Williams, although Stoudemire denied it.

“I drove the ball and I felt like I got fouled at the end,” Williams said. “But they didn’t call it, so you just move on to the next one.”

It was an encouraging moment for the Knicks all the way around — for the victory it preserved and for Stoudemire’s stout effort in Chandler’s place. He finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds and absorbed several hard hits, appearing every bit recovered from the bulging disk that cost him 13 games.

“I felt great, I felt strong,” he said. “My back feels phenomenal.”

Anthony, who struggled Friday in Cleveland, regained his touch with a 39-point, 10-rebound effort while alternately dueling with Johnson (22 points), Williams (29) and Josh Smith (14). Jeff Teague added 23 points for the Hawks (38-26), who are practically locked into the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The victory kept the Knicks (34-30) in seventh place, with a half-game lead on the Philadelphia 76ers (33-30), with two games to play. The Knicks also kept alive their slim hopes to catch Orlando (36-28), which lost to Denver on Sunday night, for sixth.

Coach Mike Woodson agreed to Chandler’s request for a day off, concluding it was more important to protect his defensive anchor than to jockey for playoff position. “I think so,” Woodson said. “For him, it is.”

Chandler plans to return to the lineup Wednesday night, when the Knicks close their home schedule against the Los Angeles Clippers. They conclude the regular season Thursday in Charlotte. The playoffs begin two days later.

Chandler is not injured, but he has played a team-high 2,029 minutes and is averaging 36 a game in April.

“I want to be fresh for the playoffs,” Chandler said. “And the coaching staff and medical staff thought it would be best for me to get rest here, because we have one game in four days.”

Without Chandler to hold the defense together, the Knicks turned porous, giving up 65 points in the first half and allowing the Hawks to shoot 58 percent through three quarters. They finally responded in the fourth, holding Atlanta to 7-for-18 shooting.

“It just shows how valuable Tyson Chandler is to our ball club,” Woodson said, adding: “We missed him. We stayed the course.”

Woodson smiled as he called the game an “old-school shootout,” but then admitted: “Yeah, I hated it. I’d like to see some defense.”

The Knicks’ offense more than compensated, as all five starters scored in double figures, including a resurgent Landry Fields, who produced 18 points and went 7 for 8 from the field.

The lead changed hands four times in the final 3 minutes 7 seconds, with the Knicks finally taking a 113-112 lead on Anthony’s 22-footer with 1:40 left. The Knicks blew two chances to pad the lead in the final minute, with J. R. Smith throwing the ball away and Anthony missing a quick 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left.


Jared Jeffries rested his sore right knee again Sunday and will be held out of the final two games as well, Mike Woodson said. He is expected back for Game 1 of the playoffs, however. “We’re playing well right now,” Jeffries said. “I can take this time to get myself back ready.” Assuming he skips the final two games, Jeffries will have played in just 6 of the 19 final regular-season games. He reiterated that he did not need surgery. “It’s just playing 10 years in the league,” he said. “It’s just a bad knee.” … Woodson said he also considered resting Carmelo Anthony but that Anthony preferred to play. “He knows his body,” Woodson said. “I’m sure if there’s any issues there, he’ll tell me and we’ll back off.”

Anthony Calls Game ‘Almost a Must Win’ for Knicks

The Knicks have lost six straight, tying their worst skid of the season, and nine of 10 to fall to 35-38. New York has gone 7-12 since acquiring Anthony in February, including a loss to the Magic last Wednesday.

“We understand how important this game is for us,” Anthony said at the Knicks’ training center. “It’s almost a must win for us. That mentality, that’s something that I want to approach it, as a must-win game. We’ve been talking about that throughout the team.”

Told of Anthony’s must-win belief, coach said: “We’ve had a few of those lately, and we haven’t seemed to get one, so every game we go out is a must win. It’s a must play well.”

“We’ve been using those cliches and trying to do this and that, and it’s almost time to draw a line in the sand and let’s play as hard as we can play,” D’Antoni added.

Despite their slump, the Knicks are still seventh in the Eastern Conference with room to spare. Anthony said he wasn’t worried about a complete collapse, but D’Antoni and team president said the playoffs weren’t a guarantee.

The Knicks open a four-game homestand Monday. After the Magic, who have won all three meetings this season, New York hosts New Jersey, Cleveland and Toronto, all well below .500.

But the Knicks have been maddeningly poor against fellow losing teams, going 0-3 this season against the and losing twice to both Indiana and Milwaukee during the last 10 games. D’Antoni said it had been hard for the team to keep its confidence up “because we’re losing all the time.”

“So the first thing you do is just play harder,” he said.

The Knicks also changed a routine.

New York held its first home morning shootaround of the season Monday. The Knicks usually have a walkthrough in the afternoon at Madison Square Garden, believing a morning trip to Westchester, then a drive into Manhattan, wasn’t the best use of their time. They practiced at their training center the morning of a game only one other time in the last two seasons, on the morning of ‘s debut last year.

But after a day off Sunday, they decided to get to the gym early.

“I think when you’re losing a lot, you change something,” Walsh said. “So we’ll see if the change helps us.”