NEW YORK — In the wake of Game 4 between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, much was made about Erik Spoelstra‘s decision to have Shane Battier, instead of LeBron James, defend Carmelo Anthony in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ 89-87 victory.
Anthony scored 12 of the Knicks’ final 16 points on Sunday. And in the series thus far, he has shot 12-for-41 (29 percent) when being guarded by James and 19-for-38 (50 percent) when being guarded by Battier.
Carmelo Anthony’s shooting, first round
Here’s ESPN’s Brian Windhorst took on Spoelstra after the game…
The Heat lost because they allowed Carmelo Anthony to score 41 points on just 29 shots. Instead of making him the volume scorer they did for the rest of the series, Anthony was able to get the ball where he wanted it, let him get to the line 14 times, and let him get on an offensive roll.
In other words, the only thing that could beat the Heat happened.
Anthony did the bulk of it against Shane Battier, including for the entire fourth quarter. For the first three games of the series, and even for the last game of the regular season between the teams on April 15 that served as a playoff warmup, Spoelstra went with James on Anthony for the stretch run.
Yet this time Battier was left on him as Anthony took the green light to attack him and shoot over him while James guarded Chandler. Anthony scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the fourth, picking apart the Heat’s sudden change of heart.
Battier wasn’t guarding Anthony on two of those four makes in the fourth quarter on Sunday. The first of the four was a transition and-one over Dwyane Wade. And the third of the four was a turnaround, foul-line jumper over James after a switch.
Of course, the most painful defensive possession for the Heat was Battier’s foul on an Anthony 3-pointer with 25.9 seconds left. But that was a tough call (the contact seemed to come after the release) and Anthony only made one of the three free throws.
In watching all 93 of Anthony’s shots in the series, it becomes clear that Battier has done a better job than James of contesting them. James is bigger, and maybe Anthony is more hesitant to challenge James. He has certainly appeared more aggressive when he’s had Battier guarding him.
Anthony beat Battier off the dribble once in the series, but he’s beat James off the dribble too. And the big difference in the numbers against the two defenders is outside the paint.
Anthony’s shooting locations vs. Battier and James
|Restricted Area||Paint (Non-RA)||Mid-Range||Corner 3||Above the Break 3|
Sure, the argument can be made that James should be the guy defending Anthony on key possessions down the stretch. But Anthony has taken mostly the same shots against both defenders.
All those mid-range shots? James really hasn’t done a better job of defending them than Battier. But sometimes, contested shots go in and uncontested shots don’t.
The conversation goes a lot deeper than just 50 percent vs. 29 percent.