We don't see many 50-point games anymore.
With the change in defensive rules and strategy, the evolution of the game has gone from a world of solitary confinement on the perimeter to consistently trying to move the ball into the middle of the floor and then move the defense side-to-side to break their rotations. Defenses are funneling scorers into help and cutting off driving lanes that probably end up limiting the amount of free throws a scorer can earn throughout a game.
There has been so much change to the NBA game over the last decade that it has gone from a defensive league to an offensive league and now back to a defensive league. What used to be brawn and physicality has become more angles, areas and strategic positioning. It's what makes Carmelo Anthony's 50-point performance against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night so odd.
Not only are 50-point games not that common anymore, but the way that Anthony ended up with 50 points was such a unique game.
When we start looking at his night, the first thing to look at is his shooting chart (via NBA.com/stats).
Melo didn't hit a single shot in the middle of the floor. He didn't hit from the straight away 3-point area, he didn't hit a shot directly above the foul line, he didn't hit a shot in the middle of the key and he didn't hit a shot at the rim. He didn't even attempt a shot in these areas, either.
Almost everything that Melo did offensively was within the flow of the offense and what the defense decided to give him. They wanted to take away the shots at the rim and make him knock down jumpers. And that's exactly what Anthony did. He rarely forced anything offensively and did a lot of catch-and-shoot scores to not give the defense a chance to force the ball out of his hands.
This wasn't the superstar Melo we're used to seeing in the NBA; this was the Olympic version of Carmelo Anthony that torched opposing defenses before they even smelled the smoke.
The other odd part about his 50-point performance was how little else he did in the game. This isn't a complaint necessarily. Most people will harp on a scorer's unwillingness to part with the ball by getting assists. Some people will complain about someone scoring points but not grabbing enough rebounds.
Melo finished with just two points and two assists. He didn't record his first rebound until 7:03 left in the third quarter. His first assist didn't come until he kicked the ball to Steve Novak in the right corner for a 3-pointer that ended the third quarter. Anthony also didn't turn the ball over in this game -- not once.
Since the 1985-86 season, 11 players (16 times total) have scored 50 points in a game without a single turnover. Melo might have not racked up assists or crashed the boards during his scoring binge, but he also didn't hurt his team at all. He caught the ball, fired away and lit up the scoreboard. He caught the ball, dribbled to an open spot and knocked down the jumper.
For all of Melo's faults and all of the criticism that is thrown his way, his role against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night was to score. And he did it in a destructively efficient way. He made 18-of-26 from the field and 7-of-10 from the 3-point line. He was the 21st person since 1985 (23 times total) to score 50 points in a game without shooting more than 26 shots.
It was eerily efficient and fairly effortless, and that's why Carmelo's 50-point game was so odd. It fed right into the hands of the modern day defensive schemes. The evolution of the game set him up for failure on a night like this when he didn't attack the paint and just settled into the zones that Miami allowed.
And yet it didn't matter. Melo took the strategy of the modern defense and slapped it in the face with his jumper. It was an unusual 50-point performance, but it might have been his most impressive.