Other than Kobe Bryant, no one’s gotten off to a better – or easier – scoring start to the season than Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, who is not only averaging 30.2 points per game this season but opened the Western Conference Finals last year by scoring 39 and 34 points in Los Angeles
Oddly, he cooled off at home, managing just 21 and 15 points in Games 3 and 4 before closing out with 31 and 25 point games.
While L.A. used Trevor Ariza’s quickness, Kobe Bryant’s tenacity and Luke Walton’s size to give ‘Melo different looks, assistant coach Frank Hamblen said that ultimately it was a team approach they took with the former Syracuse National Champ.
“He’s really developed offensively,” said Hamblen. “He’s more disciplined, he tries to get to the free throw line – I think he’s getting there 11 times a game* right now – so everybody has to be aware. ‘I have my man and part of yours,’ that’s the way you have to do it against him.”
*Anthony has been to the line an average of 11.6 times per game, hitting 89-of-105 free throws (84.8 percent).
L.A. does get a prospective boost in dealing with Anthony with the presence of Ron Artest, as Phil Jackson explained.
“We don’t have to commit as many defenders to plugging the lane and doing that stuff,” said Jackson. “Hopefully Ron can kind of hold him in check. I don’t think anyone is going to hold him out (completely), but he’s going to be physical with him and he can take the physical punishment that Carmelo dishes out and he’ll give some back on his own. That’s a big part of it, Carmelo has outweighed our guy in that position by 30 or 40 pounds.”
Hamblen said that Anthony still has a height advantage over Artest, but like Jackson expects Artest to be able to physically stand up to Anthony.
“We’ll see if Ron’s our guy,” he concluded.