Melo shooting his way into MVP talk

If there's one thing Carmelo Anthony will take away from playing under Mike D'Antoni, it's this: He realized how good he could be as a 3-point shooter.

From Anthony's trade to New York in February 2011 until the end of the regular season, he shot a team-leading 42.4 percent (53-for-125) from 3-point range in D'Antoni's pick-and-roll, spread-out offense. And now that Mike Woodson is still utilizing many of D'Antoni's schemes, Melo is back to cooking from beyond the arc.

Entering Sunday, he was shooting a career-high 44 percent from downtown, and in the Knicks' 106-99 win over the Suns, he finished 4-for-10, en route to a game-high 34 points. He's now the second-leading scorer in the NBA (after Kobe Bryant), averaging 26.6 points per game.

"They were picking up Tyson [Chandler] in the pick-and-roll, rolling to the rim, and as a result of that, they left us open with the outside shots," Anthony said after the game. "Those are shots that we take, those are shots that we make, and we'll continue to do that."

The biggest difference between this season and last -- when Melo dipped dramatically to 33.5 percent from downtown, despite his better numbers with the Knicks -- is that he worked his way into arguably the best shape of his career during the summer. That enabled him to show off his quick release -- one of the most picture-perfect and fluid ones in the game from anywhere on the court -- during the Olympics, when Team USA won the gold.

In addition, in 2011-12, he dealt with wrist, thumb and ankle problems, but so far this season, he's pain free. Sharpshooter Steve Novak addressed Anthony's health after the game.

"He's shooting great," he said. "I mean, he's so focused, he's healthy. He's not only shooting it well, obviously, but he's playing great defense. He's our leader. If he's playing the right way, you're going to do well as a team."

Another factor related to Anthony's success this season has been working with the Knicks' new shooting coach, Dave Hopla.

"He's a great motivator, man, especially when you're out there shooting the basketball," Melo told ESPNNewYork.com recently. "He's very positive, always going to tell you about your mechanics and what you're doing wrong. So his main thing is just consistency, doing the same thing over and over again."

Anthony's hot hand has been just another reason the fans have been bringing out the "M-V-P" chants to every home game. He's shooting so well his 3-point percentage was even better than Novak's (42.9) entering Sunday's action. In the Knicks' first 15 games, Melo averaged 2.2 makes and five attempts per game, while Novak was at 2.2 and 5.1.

Anthony's also been having a little fun with his 3-point shooting. He's recently added Rasheed Wallace's trademark 3-point celebratory move -- putting three fingers to his head -- after almost every make.

"I'm just representing my man Rasheed Wallace," Melo said. "Three to the dome."

That has made Novak, who has his own 3-point theatrics -- the Discount Triple Check -- very proud of Anthony's sizzling stroke.

"He's the best player in the league right now," he said.

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