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Iso Melo amiss in postseason

Credit the Celtics for slowing down Knicks star Carmelo Anthony in isolation plays in the first round. Brian Babineau/Getty Images

First thing's first: The sky is not falling.

Sure, the New York Knicks missed a chance to sweep the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

But no team in NBA history has rebounded from a 3-0 deficit. And Boston has given no indication that it has the talent to make that kind of history.

So the Knicks, by all indications, will lock up the series and advance to the second round later this week.

But a trend has emerged during the series that bears watching.

Carmelo Anthony has struggled in isolation in the postseason, particularly in Game 4. This is troubling because the Knicks have used Anthony in isolation at a high rate in the playoffs.

In the regular season, Anthony was in isolation on 26 percent of Knicks' plays that ended with a field goal attempt, free throw or turnover from the All-Star. He had a 41.8 field goal percentage on such plays, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information.

In the playoffs, Anthony has been in isolation on 43 percent of plays that end with the ball in his hand and has shot just 31 percent from the floor on those plays.

The iso-heavy offense seemed to hurt the Knicks on Sunday. Anthony was in isolation 49 percent of the time in Game 4. He shot 10-for-35 from the floor.

Of course, J.R. Smith's absence affected Anthony and the Knicks on Sunday. Smith was suspended for elbowing Jason Terry in the jaw in Game 3. If he were on the floor, things would presumably open up for Anthony.

But his opportunities late in Sunday's game seemed to come at the expense of Raymond Felton. Felton scored 16 points on eight shots in the third quarter to help the Knicks rebound from a 20-point deficit. In the fourth quarter and overtime, he took a combined six shots. Anthony, on the other hand, went 4-for-14 in the fourth quarter and OT.

"He missed some shots," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "But as a team we couldn't make shots. We struggled."

Surely, Anthony wasn't the only Knick whose shot was off in Game 4. The Knicks shot a combined 29 percent in the first half. But Anthony shouldered most of the blame after missing 25 shots.

"I just normally hit those shots. I’ve been taking them the whole series. They weren't falling tonight," Anthony said shortly after Sunday's game.

Maybe the Knicks would have been better served going with a balance between pick-and-rolls and isolation sets.

Felton thrived in the pick-and-roll in the third quarter on Sunday and the Knicks have had success on such plays in the postseason.

They are averaging 1.15 points per play on pick-and-roll plays and 0.67 points per play in isolation sets, per ESPN Stats and Information.

Of course, Anthony is at his best in isolation, not in the pick-and-roll. So it would be foolish to completely abandon Anthony's isolation sets and ask him to operate solely in the pick-and-roll. That would be like asking a world-class violinist to play trumpet.

So there's no need to overhaul the offense. Even though he was off on Sunday, the Knicks still had a chance to win the game. And Anthony still got a few key Celtics into foul trouble.

"At the end of the day, you're going to live and die with your go-to guy," Felton said after Sunday's game. "I was able to get in the paint and hit some big shots, but when the game is on the line you're going to be getting the ball to No. 7. That's what we've been doing all year. There's no need to change it now."

Felton is right. There's no need to change anything. But maybe a less "iso Melo" would benefit everyone involved.

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