Rose or Melo?
DERRICK ROSE IS A BETTER FINISHER THAN CARMELO ANTHONY
No matter how you judge the term, or whether you think the designation even exists, on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Carmelo Anthony was undeniably clutch. He hit two game-changing 3-pointers: a tying shot with 11 seconds left in regulation and a winning shot with eight seconds left in overtime. Daggers, both of them. He scored 43 in the 100-99 win, his finest moment in a New York uniform.
In the same game, Derrick Rose had the clutch mentality, wanting the ball in his hands with the game on the line, but after missing 12 straight games, he didn't have it. He missed two free throws with 19.4 seconds left in regulation that would have iced the game. He airballed a 22-foot "hero ball" jumper to end regulation. He missed a tough runner in overtime to end the game. Rose scored 29 points, but he wasn't clutch.
If you go by 82games.com's "clutch" statistics, Anthony is scoring more late when it's close, 43.6 points (per 48 minutes of clutch time) to 37.5 for Rose. And it's at a higher clip, 43.6 percent to 36.3. The Bulls are better in these moments when Rose is on the floor (plus-16) than the Knicks with Anthony (minus-8). Last year, Rose had a better clutch scoring average and worse plus-minus.
Anthony is as pure a scorer as there is in the NBA, but with the game on the line, give me Rose, if he's healthy. Rose wants the responsibility and can shoulder it as well. He can do more with the ball, by setting up teammates, and no one is quicker or more creative off the dribble.
I've seen Rose dominate late in the game, feed off the energy of the crowd and bask in the moment. I think Sunday's failures will provide fuel for the home stretch and beyond. For the Bulls to win the East, Rose will have to be clutch when it matters.
MELO'S A BETTER FINISHER THAN ROSE, AND IT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE
Here's all you need to know: 24-for-52 versus 6-for-31.
In the past 10 seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Anthony's 46.2 field goal percentage in these situations is the highest in the NBA for those with a minimum of 20 attempts. As for Rose? Only 19.4 percent.
Traditionally, the game's top shooting guards and small forwards, not point guards, have been better finishers. Since 2002, in addition to Anthony's 24 made field goals, the other three players in the top four include Kobe Bryant (29), Vince Carter (22) and Ray Allen (18). The obvious reason is that they're the best scorers and shooters on the court. Another reason is that they have the skills to be set up in isolation closer to the basket. All of the aforementioned players can knock down shots from midrange and out of the post, especially Anthony and Bryant.
Coaches typically don't draw up last-second sets for their point guards, who are obviously better at making plays for others. But Rose is the best of the new breed of scoring point guards, which also includes Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
These players are given the green light to be on "The Island" -- the nickname Chicago streetballers have given to a clear-out, one-on-one situation with the game on the line. But Rose, a fellow Chicagoan, still can't get it done in the clutch. In fact, Rose is shooting 57.9 percent on free throws in the final minute of the fourth quarter this season, but 83.7 percent in all other game situations.
If I need a finisher, I'm going with a 6-foot-8, 230-pound versatile scorer who's one of the best in the league. Anthony's height and size give him a big advantage over defenders. And most importantly, his shooting stroke is unmatched for a small forward -- maybe even any frontcourt player. That, to me, is arguably what it all comes down to. While Rose has improved as a shooter, his accuracy from 10 feet and beyond is still not as good as Melo's, even though Melo went through a slump from mid-January to mid-March.
On Tuesday night in Chicago, if the final seconds resemble Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, Bulls fans had better be worried -- even if Rose is healthy enough to play.
Anthony is the one who knows how to finish.