Sunday, April 15, 2012

Heat 93, Knicks 85 - Recap

In a way, I sort of didn't expect much good out of this game, and it exceeded my expectations. Yes, despite a loss to the rival Miami Heat, the Knicks, still short-handed and beat-up, were able to make the Heat sweat a little bit, and nearly pulled off a big win.

And therein lies the real disappointment. Not that the Knicks lost this game to a better team, but that they had a chance, and couldn't close it out. After falling behind by double-digits in the 1st quarter, the Knicks closed out the quarter strong, and behind some strong bench play, changed the pace of the game. The 2nd quarter featured Carmelo Anthony continually scoring at will, while J.R. Smith pitched in a good effort, creating some offense for himself. The Knicks won the quarter, but behind some botched defensive rebounding, finished the first half down two.

The 3rd quarter played out much like the 1st quarter: the Knicks and Heat went back and forth until the Heat started to pull away, until the Knicks closed the quarter with some solid defensive plays and some more 3s by Smith. However, though the 4th quarter was tight for awhile, the Heat kicked it into an extra gear the Knicks didn't have. While Miami's stars made some acrobatic, seemingly possible plays on offense, the Knicks sputtered on their end of the floor, either shooting early in the shot clock or just shooting arrhythmic jumpers.

It's hard to be upset about the loss, but it's easy to be disappointed. If the Knicks want to move higher up in the standings over the next week and a half, they need to get wins, and this only set them further back. Take the jump for some notes.

 That Was Good
 - Throughout most of the game I wanted to dive through my TV screen and hug Carmelo Anthony. Sometimes even kiss him. Melo started at power forward once again, but was most often guarded by Lebron James or Shane Battier. And neither had any answer for him. Surprisingly, the Heat stuck with mostly single coverage on Anthony, and he took advantage of the space he had to explore. Tantalizing on pull-up jumpers, crossovers, spins, and just his deceptive quickness and strength, Melo carried the Knicks offense to the tune of 42 points on 14-27 shooting. Of all of his performances (and this ended up being less heroic than Easter Sunday's matinee against Chicago), this was Melo at his most dominant. Truly there were times when he finished some impossible drives Throw in his intensified, passionate defense and his 9 rebound and 5 assists, and Anthony was the best player on the floor.

  - J.R. Smith's importance was finally realized today, certainly by fans, but hopefully by J.R. Smith too. Aside from Anthony, Smith was really the only player to contribute positively on offense. As long as the Knicks are short-handed, Smith is going to have to be the second scorer, and games like today where he chipped in 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals are going to be necessary.

That Wasn't So Good
 - Hey, the Knicks got the free throw line more times than the Miami Heat! But they also shot just 60.9% and those nine misses made a big difference in the game.

 - Likewise, a stat that clearly indicates a blown opportunity: The Heat out-rebounded the Knicks 47-33, and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to the Knicks' 7. Some of that was because Tyson Chandler was matched up on Chris Bosh who likes the perimeter, so rebounding was a little easier for the Heat. Kudos to the Heat for the strategy, and hopefully that problem for the Knicks is negated when Amar'e Stoudemire returns and Jared Jeffries gets healthy.

 - As I mentioned, Anthony and Smith were basically left on an island on offense. Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumpert all contributed a total of just 19 points. In particular, Davis, Shumpert, and Fields hurt the team with their ineptitude. Shumpert was likely tired from chasing Dwyane Wade around the court, but Davis and Fields inability to put the ball in the basket really hurt. Davis did some nice things running the offense, and Fields did some OK things on defense, but their contributions (7 points, 3-14 shooting) need to be bigger.

Odds and Ends
 - Iman Shumpert was given the task of guarding Dwyane Wade and most struggled. Granted, Shump is dealing with a bum ankle, but he got lost a few times on screens and cuts, and generally didn't contest too well on jumpers. There was a brief period in the second half that got the Garden roaring when Shump hounded Wade on the perimeter, twice stealing the ball and starting fast breaks. One of them ended in a turnover, the other with a layup for Fields. He needs to be more aggressive on offense though.

 - Steve Novak, on an off day, still shot 40% from 3. No doubt, though, he's having trouble the getting decent looks, he would normally get with Lin running the show and Amar'e acting as another threat on the floor.

 - Tyson Chandler seemed to hurt his knee which made the second half truly scary. It looks like he'll be alright though. 

 - Lebron James made a fade-away jumper along the baseline in the 3rd quarter, and fell and landed on a fan's foot. He was down for a little bit, grimacing, and holding his ankle, and at one point shot a glaring look at the fan, as if they tripped him. When the Heat called a timeout and went to check him out, Lebron just tied his shoe and that seemed to make him better.

 - Jeff Van Gundy, who called the game for ABC, HATES flopping.

That's all I've really got. The Knicks are likely going to be four games behind Boston for 4th place and four games behind Orlando for 6th place, since both teams appear to be winning right now. They play Boston on Tuesday and that could be a really important game. Go Knicks!

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