Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

3 votes – Carmelo Anthony. Mark it down in history folks. The first time a losing player has ever scored the 3 votes here at our Playoff Diary. But Melo’s effort against the Knicks today was too irresistible to ignore. Apart from, you know, the fact he didn’t take a single shot in the last 2 minutes when the Knicks needed it most. But thats ok, because Henry Abbott won’t have any stats to count and can still declare him the best clutch player in the league (I’m being very sarcastic here). Fact of the matter is, the Knicks win this game and Melo’s effort goes down as one of the greatest performances in Knicks playoff history. He was that good. Without Chauncey and without Amare in the second half. Against the Celtics at home. Don’t take it from me though, take it from our own Knickerbocker fanatic Tizzle, who SMS’d me this a couple of hours after the game:

Melo must get 3 votes today. Must. The biggest game I’ve seen in a long time, dominating the best defensive team of the past decade, basically going 1-on-5 for a game, with all that pressure from his bad game 1, that was a stand-up moment. Charles Barkley, aka “Knick hater #1″, just said it was one of the best playoff performances he has ever seen. 3 votes or I will never contribute to NBAMate again”

Truth is Tiz, after I got that message all I could do was think about giving Melo the 1 or 2 vote just to get a reaction out of you. No way a losing team was going to get 3 votes. Then I came home, watched all the highlights again, thought about it, and sat down to write this post. And it was an easy decision. Melo really did deserve the 3 votes today. Pity that the loss will relegate his performance to the annals of “great individual losing performances in the playoffs”. Which curiously, is something the Celtics seem to have a knack of doing to guys like Melo, Lebron, Wade and Kobe.

2 votes – Dwight Howard. I’m glad the Magic heeded my advice from Game 1. They continued to pound the ball into Dwight, and in a 5-minute spurt in the second quarter that strategy essentially turned the game. Dwight had 20 points in the second quarter alone, including 10 straight for the Magic, on his way to 33 and 19 rebounds for the game. I didn’t watch this game but I did watch a replay of that second quarter tonight, and while I was watching the only thing I kept thinking to myself was “how on earth can Orlando ever lose to this Atlanta team”. They were worlds apart, Dwight was dominating, their defense was suffocating, and… yeah Dwight was dominating. No one can convince me that the Hawks are good enough to win this series. Orlando’s best is so much better than Atlanta’s best it’s not funny. But I guess that’s always been the issue with Dwight and Orlando, right? Realising their full potential.

1 vote – Rajon Rondo. Dirk is stiff to miss out today, as was KG for his game-winning shot and steal. But Rondo was brilliant from the tip, scoring 14 of Boston’s first 18 points. Pretty remarkable given how muted he was offensively in Game 1. This was the version of Rajon Rondo that prompted Ant to choose him as his most important player of the playoffs. When he’s aggressive like he was today the Celtics are nearly unbeatable. It’s deflating to the opposition because Rondo is supposed to be their weakest scoring link – when he’s driving and scoring like that, how are you supposed to keep your defenders honest against this Celtics team? Thinking back to last year’s Finals, Rondo spent too many games settling for perimeter jump shots, too much time thinking about attacking rather than just doing it. Today he just did it.

Retro Playoff Diary:
2009 Day 4 – Votes and the degree of difficulty
2010 Day 4 – The Mamba strikes back

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