<
>

Knicks need more than Melo to close games

Blowout wins don't come around too often, in which six players score in double figures.

That's what happened Saturday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills, as the Knicks dismantled the Pistons, 103-80.

The team's top scorer, Carmelo Anthony, who's averaging 27.1 points per game, only put up 13 points. He didn't even need to score in the fourth quarter.

But so far this season, the Knicks have relied on Anthony a lot to close out games. Fortunately, he hasn't disappointed yet and he's led the team to half of its four victories. In a two-point win against Boston on Christmas Day and a three-point win against Washington on Friday, he scored 17 points and 10 points in the final period, respectively.

Through seven games, Melo's the league's best fourth-quarter player, averaging 10.1 points, while shooting 54.5 percent from the field, 58.3 percent from three (7-for-12) and 84.2 percent from the foul line. (Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings are tied for second at 7.7 points.)

While the Knicks need Anthony as a finisher, the rest of the team's stats in the fourth quarter prove the other players are standing around and watching him too much, as Josh Harrellson pointed out recently. There is a significant drop-off in scoring from Melo to the next players, Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert, who are tied at 3.3 points. Worse, Amare Stoudemire, who was the league's best fourth-quarter player last year, averaging 7.1 points, is way down to 2.7 this season.

Not only do the Knicks need more of STAT down the stretch, they need more spread-out scoring in the second quarter -- another close-out period that's key for building momentum heading into halftime. They have more of that consistency in the first and third periods, but not in the second and fourth. Here's a per-quarter points breakdown from the starting five:

First Quarter

Carmelo Anthony -- 7.5 points

Iman Shumpert -- 4.8 points

Tyson Chandler -- 4.0 points

Amare Stoudemire -- 4.0 points

Landry Fields -- 3.4 points

Second Quarter

Stoudemire -- 7.2 points

Anthony -- 7.1 points

Shumpert -- 2.8 points

Chandler -- 1.9 points

Fields -- 1.9 points

Third Quarter

Stoudemire -- 6.5 points

Anthony -- 3.6 points

Chandler -- 2.5 points

Shumpert -- 2.5 points

Fields -- 1.8 points

Fourth Quarter

Anthony -- 10.1 points

Shumpert -- 3.3 points

Chandler -- 3.0 points

Stoudemire -- 2.7 points

Fields -- 1.6 points

If the Knicks want to continue to deal with long and unnecessary back-and-forth rallies with winless teams like the Wizards, then fans will be in for a treat watching Melo. But that may not always lead to a victory.

A big plus coming out of last night in Detroit was the Knicks' 26 assists, tying their best mark all season. It was above the league high (24.6 per game by the Heat) and it was an improvement from playing against Toronto (14), Charlotte (19) and Washington (22). That's the kind of ball movement the Knicks need to get consistent scoring. Shumpert has made an immediate impact with his facilitating; Baron Davis should make his come February.

You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.