NEW YORK -- With 11.9 seconds to go in the game, the Knicks down three, 103-100, with the inbounds possession, Mike D'Antoni decided not to make Carmelo Anthony, one of the league's best clutch players, the focal point of the play.
Instead, D'Antoni wanted to utilize Amare Stoudemire's strength as a shooter at the top of the key. STAT did, after all, have his best game as a Knick this season leading up to that point, surpassing the 30-point mark for the first time. He finished with 34 points (on 16-for-27 shooting) and 11 rebounds.
"If he was wide open, I said go ahead and take it if he's wide open," D'Antoni said. "If not, then Melo's at the other side. [Amare] just has to pick out where he was. He shoots it as well as anybody."
While D'Antoni has gone to Stoudemire for the top-of-the-key jumper off the inbounds in the past, it was the first time this season the head coach went to STAT in a potentially game-tying or close-out situation. Not Anthony. Last season, Stoudemire almost beat Boston on Dec. 15, 2010, with a 3-pointer from almost that same spot on the court, but it was waved off because the ball was still in his hands when the red light around the backboard lit up.
You could argue that D'Antoni did the right thing highlighting Stoudemire because he had a hotter shooting performance than Anthony. Also, the Bulls' bigs were slow checking STAT all night, which he alluded to after the game.
"Coach explained if I'm open, shoot it. And I was open," STAT said. "It was a late contest from Joakim Noah, and that shot usually falls for me. We played hard, we played well. We had a chance to win."
But you could make the stronger argument, why not go to Melo? He's not only been the Knicks' best fourth-quarter player, but he's been the best in the NBA this season, averaging 9.0 points. That's why the Knicks traded for him, to be the finisher they didn't have. In fact, in both of the Knicks' closest games this season against top competition, the Celtics on Dec. 25 and the Nuggets on Jan. 21, Melo was able to lead the team's final charge to put them in position to come out victorious. He knocked off Boston and nearly beat Denver after sending the game into overtime.
As good as Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol are shooting the ball, you don't see the Heat or Lakers, respectively, running out-of-bounds plays for them when the team has one last chance to tie or win the game. Those moments are designed for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant -- a domain that includes Anthony. Not to mention, they're better passers off the dribble, in traffic and out of double teams from the perimeter, which were responsibilities D'Antoni gave Stoudemire in that situation.
Not only does Anthony's size (6-8, 230) give him an advantage to receive the inbounds pass, but when he does have the ball, his playmaking provides the offense multiple looks. Of course, it would help if he had more 3-point shooters to dish to off the move. The Knicks, once again, shot poorly from beyond the arc tonight (4-for-16). Perhaps Steve Novak (44.4 3FG%) would have been an asset with those 11.9 seconds remaining.
Whatever the case, Anthony was confident in D'Antoni's game plan and Stoudemire making the right play.
"If he made it, he would’ve been a hero," Melo said. "He would’ve been our hero. It was a good shot for him. He was open.”
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