HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — This is a story of a great scorer scoring, but for Carmelo Anthony, is his recent tear about something bigger?
Before celebrating the pageantry of Anthony’s scoring spree, look where else ‘Melo is scoring big points. Averaging a rather ordinary 6.8 rebounds a game for the season, Anthony pulled down 19 Thursday night. In his last eight games, he’s also delivered rebounding totals of 14, 12, 10 and 11. He’s grabbed 81 total in those eight games and 31 — nearly 40 percent — have kept Knicks possessions alive.
Rebounding is work and Anthony’s bringing his hard hat as the New York Knicks’ impressive stretch run bears down on the East’s No. 2 seed. Anthony’s all-around efforts have to be considered an encouraging, belief-cementing sign for the Knicks organization. It shows toughness and commitment. Recently back from a knee injury, he’s sacrificing his body. He’s all in, and, if appearances can be trusted, he is ascending as the leader of a tough, even headstrong, veteran team.
One which — notwithstanding Thursday’s overtime streak-buster by the ornery Bulls — looks every bit capable of advancing to the conference finals to face that familiar bunch down south …
… And now back to the pageantry of Anthony’s scoring spree. Whew!: 39.8 ppg over his last six. He’d never gone better than 30 points in three straight games in a Knicks uniform. And 30-in-six matches his best ever in 7 1/2 seasons in Denver, done twice in Nov. 2006, amazingly in a span of 13 games. In the seventh game he scored 29.
Scoring strings of 50, 40, 41, 36, 36 and 36 just don’t fall from the sky.
Appropriately during the same week Bernard King made it into the Hall of Fame, Anthony’s blowing up scoreboards. Volume shooting, you ask? Well, sure, except until Thursday’s 13-for-34 for 36, Anthony’s recent accuracy on his 27.5 shots a game has been more King than typical Carmelo, 56.4 percent, including 51.1 percent beyond the arc.
Anthony’s six-game scoring blitz has been so swift and stunning that a few days ago it zipped him past Kevin Durant, the three-time scoring champ, to lead the league and has him positioned to prevent the young Thunder superstar from a fourth consecutive trophy in his first six seasons. Melo, somewhat surprisingly 10 years in and never averaging fewer than 20 points in a single season, would win his first.
Anthony increased his lead after Thursday’s games by one-tenth of a point, raising his season average to 28.7 ppg. Durant, who scored 31 (10-for-16 FGs, 2-for-3 on 3s and 9-for-10 from the free throw line) in a win at Golden State, is holding steady 28.3 ppg. Durant has three games left; Anthony has four.
In his highest-scoring season (2006-07), Anthony averaged 28.9 ppg. Kobe Bryant won the scoring title at 31.6 ppg for the 42-40 Lakers under Phil Jackson.
Anthony’s overall field-goal percentage is steady with his 45.6 career mark. It’s his 3-point shooting that’s taken off. During his six-game explosion, Anthony is 17-for-33 (55.1 percent) from deep, and that includes 0-for-4 Thursday night. His season percentage is a robust 38.4, a five-point spike on his 33.4 career percentage and last season’s 33.5.
It’s been good enough for a charge at the scoring title. But, then, scoring has never been an issue with Anthony.
Forever hanging over New York’s 28-year-old native son as a new and hopeful postseason beckons, is if this season — starting with praise for newfound alertness to defense and finishing with an offensive assault — is ready to join the league’s few heavyweight superstars capable of putting their team, and the pressure of the postseason, on their backs.