In the first half of the Raptors game Tuesday night, Melo connected on five 3-pointers (two in the first quarter; three in the second). He was so en fuego that he launched his last one from 30 feet and nailed it. Afterwards, as he was jogging back to the other end, he shrugged his shoulders like Michael Jordan did in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals after he made his sixth trey in the first half. A reporter asked Melo after the game if he was having a Jordan moment and he said, "No, no, that was a Melo moment."
He followed up that performance with five 3s last night against the Sixers, with three of them coming in the third quarter. After the game, Melo, who's improved his 3-point shooting to 44 percent since he was traded, commented on what's changed: "In this system, the amount of 3s that we take as a team, and the fact that you have to take them if you are wide open, I think it forces you to go out there and practice on your off days and work on that shot. And you know, it's all about confidence, and now I know that those are going to be a lot of the shots that are open and I'm going to have to take that. I just started working on that a little bit more."
Melo's form, range, precision and quick release are arguably the best shooting skills in the business out of any forward in the league. It's a stroke that's enabled him to become one of the most dangerous isolation players since his rookie year in 2003. Actually, when you look at this season's stats, Melo has been the most prolific (going strictly by points). Not only that, Amare Stoudemire, whose midrange jumpshot is money, is right up there with him. Not even LeBron James or Dwyane Wade are in the top five. Check it out.
Points Off Isolation Plays This Season
Points Points Per Play Field Goal Percentage
Carmelo Anthony 615 0.90 39.5
Kobe Bryant 601 1.01 44.2
Amare Stoudemire 525 0.86 41.4
Kevin Martin 422 1.04 39.8
Kevin Durant 411 0.89 38.1
Anthony and Stoudemire also lead the league in percent of individual plays in isolation, with Melo leading the league by a wide margin. Consider: No other team this season even has two players in the top 20 in percent of plays in isolation. The closest is the Thunder, who have Kevin Durant (24.7; 12th) and Russell Westbrook (20.9; 22nd).
Percent Of Plays In Isolation This Season
Carmelo Anthony 37.0
Amare Stoudemire 31.6
Kobe Bryant 30.6
Michael Beasley 30.4
Tyreke Evans 29.9
Teammates Percent Of Plays In Isolation Last 5 Seasons (minimum 200 plays)
Season Team Player 1 Player 2
2010-11 Knicks Carmelo Anthony (37.0; 1st) Amare Stoudemire (31.6; 2nd)
2009-10 Nuggets Anthony (37.1; 2nd) Chauncey Billups (25.2; 13th)
2008-09 Warriors Stephen Jackson (28.2; 7th) Corey Maggette (26.1; 10th)
2007-08 Kings Ron Artest (26.9; 5th) John Salmons (25.2; 9th)
2006-07 76ers Willie Green (28.1; 7th) Andre Iguodala (26.1; 14th)
Source: Synergy Sports Technology
While Melo's spot-up shooting numbers have dipped slightly since he arrived in New York, which reflects the adjustment period of joining a new team and learning your spots, he's still over 40% (48.2 FG% with the Nuggets vs. 40.5 FG% currently). He's also shooting 42.8 percent in the clutch (when neither team is ahead by more than five points with five minutes left in the fourth quarter or overtime) -- only a 3.0 decrease from his Nuggets' number.
Melo needs to rub off on his Big Three teammates in two areas: Stoudemire's clutch shooting (53.4 to 36.8 percent since the All-Star break) and Chauncey Billups' spot-up shooting (44.7 to 26.5 percent since joining the Knicks).
But the bottom line is this: Simply because the Knicks have two playoff-tested superstars who are isolation threats -- not to mention, a 2004 Finals MVP running the point -- they'll be the scariest team to face, besides the Heat, starting April 16th.
Now imagine if it's a Knicks-Heat first-round matchup. Word is, Pat Riley has already been heard grinding his teeth.