Carmelo Anthony did more than set a U.S. Olympic scoring record with 37 points against Nigeria on Thursday.
He also gave tabloid writers and sports radio hosts in New York a gift that will keep on giving as long as Anthony plays for the Knicks. Those two groups must have their mouths watering for the first night that Anthony plays poorly in a loss to the Wizards, Kings, Bucks or other lesser light of the NBA landscape.
"So Anthony can hit 10 three-pointers in an 83-point win over Nigeria, but he can't shoot better than 4-for-17 on a Wednesday night in February against a bad team? Stephon Marbury was the last guy to hold the U.S. scoring record and Anthony's the same guy minus the sex with interns and bizarre habit of eating Vaseline."
Seriously, Marbury held the record before Anthony crushed it. That was a really fantastic nugget of information to learn while Anthony was going all otherworldly against the Nigerians, especially since it came with Larry Brown as Marbury's coach in an Olympics that ended with a bronze medal because Brown insisted on playing Marbury over LeBron James, Anthony and other younger players.
The folly of that decision was clear at the time and makes you question every bit of praise heaped on Brown with eight years of hindsight. The 156-73 win on Thursday was just the latest indication that this is a golden generation of American basketball, one that is raising the game and the world -- as evidenced by hyped challenger Spain's one-point win over Great Britain -- is having a hard time keeping up.
But we're here to talk about Anthony, whose performance on Thursday was not unlike some of the ones we saw down the stretch for the Knicks outside of the fact that he dropped his 37 points in just 14 minutes of play. Even with the Knicks, Anthony would have a hard time hoisting 16 shots in that amount of time although it would help if more NBA teams adopted the Nigerian system of shooting right away and refusing to play defense.
Thanks to the opposition, it is easy to downplay what Melo did on Thursday. Watching it, though, you never noticed the other team because you were just watching an elite scorer living in the zone and creating pure basketball goodness every time the ball touched his hands.
You could probably break down the tape and find things the U.S. was doing offensively to get Anthony good shots, Really, though, it just boils down to Anthony getting the ball, shooting the ball and plastering that Melo smile on his face on his way back down court.
We already knew he could do this. His ability to do this is the thing that keeps him in the NBA stratosphere and Kevin Durant is probably the only other player in the league who finds himself wandering into these spots where the ball feels like a pea and the bucket looks like an ocean regardless of where he is on the court.
It was beautiful to watch and a moment that you wish could be bottled and opened down the stretch of every big game the Knicks play in the next few years. It doesn't work that way, of course, and Knicks fans will instead have to hope this doesn't go down as the defining positive moment of Anthony's career.
His ability to have a game like that -- 14 minutes like that -- is the reason to keep hoping, though.
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