If you’ve been keyed in on the most disappointing playoff series at all, you’d know that before the Knicks dramatically eluded elimination yesterday against Miami, Carmelo Anthony owned the prestigious title of having the worst playoff record of any player with at least 50 postseason games. Now after his drama-bursting, 41-point Game 4 performance to keep the Knicks alive, he’s entered the record books for something else entirely.
According to The Wall Street Journal, since the 1986 Playoffs only 21 other times has someone scored 40 or more points with their team facing elimination. Anthony just turned in No. 22. The rest of the list reads like something off a discussion about the top 50 players of all time: Dwyane Wade (twice); Dirk Nowitzki; Paul Pierce; Chauncey Billups; Shaquille O’Neal; Allen Iverson (twice); Ray Allen; Tracy McGrady; Reggie Miller; Anfernee Hardaway (twice); Hakeem Olajuwon; Clyde Drexler; Charles Barkley; Michael Jordan (twice); Patrick Ewing; and Sleepy Floyd.
In other words, if you’re going to consistently rip him for only getting out of the first round once, you need to acknowledge when he does produce some history on the opposite end. The Knicks never should’ve won yesterday; during the second quarter, they trotted out a lineup of J.R. Smith, Josh Harrellson, Mike Bibby, Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries. Their second-best player was a one-handed Amar’e Stoudemire. Their starting point guard dislocated his knee cap and had to go join their other starting point guard, already out with his own knee issue. They trailed by as many as 11 in the second half. And they did all of this against the prohibitive favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
Anthony’s had some big playoff moments. He averaged 27.2 points a game for a Nuggets team that came oh, so close to the NBA Finals. The following spring, he dropped 30.7 points and 8.5 rebounds in a series against Utah. With his incredible season-saver yesterday, we wanted to spotlight Anthony’s five best postseason games of his career.
5. 2009 NBA PLAYOFFS, GAME 4 OF THE CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS VS. DALLAS
41 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals, Dallas wins 119-117
One game after hitting a miraculous winner in Dallas to put the Nuggets up 3-0, Anthony was one of the few from Denver to bring it in Game 4. This was a blood bath. Seven technical fouls. Multiple flagrant fouls. Even Anthony’s girlfriend was thought to be in danger in the stands. None of it mattered. In the final second, ‘Melo grabbed an defensive rebound and tried to get a shot off that would’ve tied it. Alas, there wasn’t enough time. Dallas must’ve breathed a sigh of relief because with the way Carmelo was shooting in this one, it would’ve been almost predictable had he hit a 90-footer.
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4. 2009 NBA PLAYOFFS, GAME 1 OF THE CONFERENCE FINALS VS. THE LAKERS
14-for-20, four three-pointers, 39 points, Lakers win 105-103
You think Anthony expected a shot at the NBA Finals? The Nuggets were rolling, winning eight of 10 in the playoffs, including their destruction of New Orleans, and had many critics predicting a relatively easy win over the defending conference champs. Anthony got right to it, dropping 16 in the first quarter as the Nuggets staked out a 13-point lead. This was perhaps his most memorable showdown with his good friend, Kobe Bryant. The two defended each other for much of the second half, including a few post battles that were more back-and-forth than Mayweather and Cotto. Bryant said after the game: “It was a lot of fun, he’s a bull down there. I am a little out of my weight class, but I’ll give it my best shot.”
3. 2010 NBA PLAYOFFS, GAME 1 OF THE FIRST ROUND VS. UTAH
18-for-25, 42 points, Denver wins 126-113
It might seem like years ago, but there was a time when Denver was considered the only viable threat to the Lakers’ Western Conference reign. They never looked more dangerous than they did in the first game of their 2010 Playoff run. Coming off a year where they pushed L.A. to the brink, the Nuggets slaughtered the Jazz here as ‘Melo made six of his first eight shots. Utah never doubled Anthony, which in hindsight appears pretty stupid considering what he shot from the floor. C.J. Miles wasn’t strong enough, and Wes Matthews wasn’t tall enough.