The New York Knicks look to continue their playoff-winning ways Sunday afternoon as the NBA Conference Semi-Finals continue at Madison Square Garden vs. the Pacers.
After months and years of Carmelo Anthony appearing in the Blue and Orange, he has finally destroyed the ghosts of more than a decade of playoff losing for the Knicks. But will they continue towards their path to a championship against Indiana?
Many have questioned whether or not Melo could win the big one.
It is not as if he has not won in the playoffs before – his Denver Nuggets went to the Western Conference Finals in 2008-09 before being ousted by the Lakers – but whether or not he could win in New York, with all the media and expectations pressuring him.
Now that he has won, we must remember something important: Until a superstar wins the big one, he is considered a choker, a guy who is unable to win when his team needs him most.
In the NBA, the playoffs are everything to a superstar’s legacy; if you cannot get it done in the postseason, it tarnishes your legend.
Carmelo Anthony was never the first player this almost applied to. Many forget now, after a championship and yet another MVP, that LeBron James had a similar designation as a big-game choker…until he won a big series-ending game. He was given the label that he passed too much, that he never wanted the final shot – no one says that now.
Now that Melo has come through, perhaps his days of playoff struggle will be behind him.
And that is important as the Knicks are about to take on a team who matches up strongly with them – The Indiana Pacers.
Strong up the middle with Roy Hibbert and David West, among others, the Pacers are a powerful defensive team capable of some offensive outbursts behind Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill.
What that means, is that the Knicks cannot have a series like the end of the last one, where Melo, and just as importantly, Sixth-Man Award winner, J.R. Smith went ice-cold for Games Four and Five.
But there is a new x-factor for the Knicks – one we hoped would get to this point sometime soon, but has made the leap as the playoffs has progressed.
Iman Shumpert, slowed down by an ACL tear suffered last year, has finally regained all he had last year, and has taken a giant step forward for the Knicks both defensively and offensively.
Jumping around on D and helping Coach Mike Woodson’s defensive strategy, Shump already has a strong portfolio of great defensive play along with Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin, and Smith.
But it is his offensive side that is going to help take the Knicks to the next level.
In 37 minutes of action, Shumpert went an efficient 6-9 from the field and just as importantly, 3 for 3 from 3-point land, scoring 17 for the Knicks.
If he is going to have this kind of output every game for the Knicks on both ends of the court, the Knicks are going to a very hard out going forward.
….and that’s before we even begin the Amare conversation….