It’s not surprising why it’s very hard for a team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series. In the simplest terms, regardless of the sport, the team that goes up 3-0 is usually good. And good teams generally don’t do a complete 360 and lose four straight games after winning three straight. Mediocre teams usually don’t give themselves the opportunity to blow a 3-0 lead.
It’s happened in the NHL most often, because the winner of a hockey game is the most random of winners in all of sports. The last time was as recently as 2010, when the Boston Bruins blew a lead against the Philadelphia Flyers (while fans in New York had no idea what to do with themselves). And if you haven’t heard, back in 2004 this baseball team from Boston came back to beat one from New York.
But it’s yet to occur in the NBA, and that’s probably because the basketball teams that get a 3-0 lead are almost always the better team of the two. And the “better team” in the NBA usually has the best player in the series. The Knicks have that in their series against the Celtics in Carmelo Anthony. Whether or not the Knicks avoid disaster and advance to the second round is not only mostly on Anthony, but it will also tell us a lot about where he stands as a “star” player.
And in that sense, you can almost make a case that Melo is in a no-win situation for the remainder of this series. I suppose if he puts the Knicks on his back and drops 50 in a Game 6 or 7 win, it could be perceived that he stepped up in a big spot, when his team needed him most. Instead, I think the narrative would probably be something like “Well, this is what he’s supposed to do, and it doesn’t matter unless he does it against the Heat.”
Regardless, Anthony simply needs to play better and needs to get the Knicks out of this series. The conversation for the past week has been about Anthony and the Knicks’ offensive struggles and what they need to do to get him going. It’s ad nauseam, at this point: less isolations.
Whether the Knicks run isolation on every possession or pick-and-roll on every possession tonight or in a potential Game 7, we all know that Carmelo Anthony is going to be the guy that is going to be the focal point of the offense. It was that way all season – the team’s most successful in over a decade – and that shoudn’t now change. How the Knicks/Woodson get him the ball will have plenty to do with it, but in the end Anthony needs to make his shots.
If Anthony is a star, he’s going to get them out of this round. Conversely, if he falters twice more, then those who consider him a star player (I am one of them), are going to seriously have to reconsider how they view him. Basketball is the one sport where a truly great player should make the difference. The reason these freak comebacks haven’t happened in the NBA is because the great stars have never allowed it to happen.
Now Anthony has to do just that.