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Carmelo had 31 points, but the Wizards' gameplan in the fourth quarter forced the ball out of his hands.
In the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's win against the Knicks, New York's offense mainly consisted of two looks: isolating Carmelo Anthony on the left side of the floor and setting a ball screen for Melo at the top of the key. Let's take a look at how Trevor Ariza and the Wizards defended the future third-place MVP vote-getter.
When Melo set up in the mid-post, Ariza mostly allowed him to catch the ball cleanly. He was able to get a steal off of a lazy pass from Pablo Prigioni, but other than that, Melo didn't have too much trouble establishing position and getting the ball.
After Melo caught the ball, the Wizards sent a double team from the middle of the floor, and varied the timing of the double-team. Sometimes it came before Carmelo dribbled, sometimes after the dribble, and sometimes as soon as he caught the pass. Based on Randy Wittman's comments about showing Carmelo different looks, this was probably intentional. Unfortunately, Melo was able to find the open man no matter when that double team came.
The weakside defenders did a pretty bad job dealing with Amare' Stoudemire cutting down the middle of the lane. Leaving three-point shooters can be scary, but somebody needed to deny the pass to the basket. The Wizards have a good enough defense to handle the subsequent rotations to open shooters. Letting Amare' run free makes Carmelo's job as a passer very easy. Although Melo's passing has improved, throwing a cross-court pass to the three-point line while facing a double team is a difficult task for any player. The Wizards let Melo off easy thanks to their poor defensive rotations.
The other go-to play for New York was the pick-and-roll for Melo at the top of the key. The Wizards had a clear game plan when it came to this play: force Melo left and never let him use the screen. Although Ariza got burned by a three-pointer early in the quarter (Carmelo used the screen and went right), he stuck to the defensive script for the rest of the game. As Ariza forced Carmelo away from the screen, the screener's man would step up to prevent the drive to the basket.
The Wizards saw the most success from this defensive alignment when Chris Singleton was the initial help defender. His size and mobility allowed him to pressure the ball and stop Carmelo from finding an open man. The average big man can be hesitant to pressure the ball handler because they don't have the foot speed to keep up. Singleton, on the other hand, can move his feet against quicker players.
The defense had problems when the help defender didn't pressure the ball, which let Melo see the floor. To compound the problems, the off-ball defenders did a poor job staying with shooters and helping on the drive.
The most promising piece of the Wizards' fourth quarter defense was Chris Singleton's ability to help on the pick-and-roll. His performance as a pick-and-roll defender makes a move to power forward much more appealing. Against teams without a post threat, such as New York, Singleton may be the Wizards' best defensive option at power forward.