Another big day on the playoff calendar, which saw an epic performance on Broadway, and three teams – Atlanta, Chicago and Denver – move to the brink of elimination.

3 votes – Carmelo Anthony. I’ve never liked the guy, but you’ve got to give credit where it’s due – Melo was phenomenal in the second half, going for 23 points on 9/15 shooting (41 points total) and hitting a tiebreaking 3-pointer in the final minute. That in-your-face dagger three is starting to become his late game trademark, and boy, is it lethal.

It’s hard not to be impressed with this version of Carmelo Anthony; engaged, a willing passer and ferocious at the rim. But let’s be honest, he was a bum for 2/3 of the year, seemingly confirming his reputation as a one-trick pony and me-first player – which to a degree, he still is. But with D’Antoni’s departure and injuries to Lin and Stoudemire, the Knicks were forced to conform to the ‘Melo Rules’, and surprisingly they were better for it.

It’s clear now; under the right circumstances Melo can be the centrepiece for a contending team. But that’s the thing; with his dominating style he has to be THE centrepiece, with everyone else falling in behind. A Knicks team featuring Melo as the undisputed front man (preferably at power forward), surrounded by the right mix of role players (i.e. defense and shooting), a few second-string, but consistent scorers (not Stoudemire, but perhaps an O.J. Mayo-type) and a world class coach (go for it Phil Jackson), could conceivably contend for a title. It’s going against the ‘super team’ trend, but as the Mavericks demonstrated last year, a well-balanced team (with a closer) can still trump star power.

With their mounting injuries, it’s only a matter of time before they’re dispatched by the Miami Heat. But for now, let’s just enjoy the spectacular/outrageous/dysfunctional ride that is New York Knicks basketball.

2 votes – Amar’e Stoudemire. From villain to hero, just like that. Full credit to him though; he fronted up to a huge playoff game with a nasty injury (self inflicted of course) and notched 20 points and 10 rebounds. And when was the last time he posted those kinds of numbers?

If you’ve seen a picture of his injury, then you know this was no small feat. Every catch, rebound, shot and knock on the hand must have hurt like hell, but he still had an impact; he was active throughout and surprisingly crisp on the offensive end. There’s no doubt, they don’t win this game without Stoudemire on the floor (with that being said, he’s still a bad fit alongside Melo and they’ll need to explore every avenue to trade him in the offseason).

I’m not giving him a pass on the boneheaded act, but with half a hand stitched on it was a gutsy performance and he deserves recognition for that.

1 vote – Rajon Rondo. Rondo’s a big game performer, and today’s output of 20 points (on 8-11 shooting), 16 assists, 3 steals and 1 turnover – seemingly a routine stat line for him these days – was again the driving force behind a Boston win.

He’s a rare talent in today’s NBA and probably my favourite player to watch. The way he can single-handedly control a game from start to finish, without being much of a scoring threat, is quite remarkable and a joy to watch.

He’s clearly an intense guy, who sometimes crosses the line, but it’s part of the package and it’s what makes him so good. As a Boston fan, I’m intrigued to see how the Celtics build around him in the coming years.

One other thought from this game. The Atlanta Hawks are a bloody joke (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they won Game 5; this maddening inconsistency – and Josh Smith being Josh Smith – is why I can’t stand them).

An honourable mention goes out to Spencer Hawes. He’s clearly not the big white stiff I thought he was.


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