Written by William Lee
Normally I would write recaps on games for New York Knicks Podcast, but for the Heat at Knicks game January 09, 2014 I would like to try something different. I want to point out some positives that came out of the victory over the two time defending Champions Miami Heat. Some positives that if it continues to hold, may offer Knicks fans a slim hope, if and when New York sees them in the playoffs this spring. Now I want to just preface that I am not a coach, or anyone that played for his school’s team, just someone that is a basketball fanatic that watches way WAY too much basketball… Also I am admittedly going to be a homer, so maybe I am seeing everything from orange and blue goggle glasses. With all that said, here are some positives I take from Thursday night’s game, and situations that have to occur if you have any chance of beating the Heat once, let alone four times in a series.
Stretch Four – One of Miami’s strength is their ability to overload the strong side on defense, yet have quick enough players to recover on the weak side. It helps when you have Lebron James and Dwyane Wade when using this defensive philosophy. Though we have seen stretch fours, give the Heat troubles, when the four is able to shoot the ball well from deep along with a good shooting backcourt. The most notable example of this was when the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship in 2011, with arguably the best stretch four, Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki. The Knicks seemly always have a stretch four on the court at all times, be it Carmelo Anthony or Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani had a great shooting night Thursday night, and highlighted this theory when he was able to knock down open shots, or attacked the rim when the defense was stretched too far. Of course Carmelo Anthony is going to be Carmelo Anthony, and we saw what he can do when he was put in the stretch four position last season (2012-2013). Side note, this was the biggest disappointment of last season when New York was eliminated and New York fans could not have seen what would have played out if the 2012-2013 Knicks team played against the Heat, and see what they could have done.
GET BACK and build a WALL! - I liked the fact that the Knicks completely abandoned even trying to crash the offensive glass, and had every player getting back on defense, to the point where Knicks were not close enough to contest transition long jumpers. I prefer giving up long jumpers, especially long twos, which is statically the worst shot in basketball. Some of the open threes that was given, ideally it would be at least lightly contested, but these long shots are better than a Lebron James or Dwayne Wade penetrating all the way to the rim in transition and creating either offense for themselves or their teammates.
Play a PERFECT game – Any team that has hopes of defeating the Heat need to play a perfect game. Any small mistake and the Heat pounce on it like a wild coyote on it’s prey. Any miscues on offense will more than likely lead to a dunk or layup on the other end. Thursday night New York was able to accomplish this, taking care of the basketball, only turning the ball over ten times in the game. Playing a perfect game against Miami is just giving yourself a chance to win the game, because as great as the Knicks were playing, the Heat still had their chances to win the game with two minutes remaining.
Must OUTREBOUND them – Miami likes to play small ball, and opponents must take advantage of this, by outrebounding the Heat on the glass. The Pacer were the best example of this destroying the Heat on the offensive glass last spring, because of their ability to rebound the ball, it helped them extend the series to the seventh game. New York was able to do this Thursday, outrebounding Miami on both the offensive glass, and defensive glass.
PUNISH them in the paint – Similar to outrebounding Miami, because they play small ball basketball, opponents must punish the Heat in the paint. Although it is easier said than done, because the Heat play small ball, they are able to hound the entry passes to the bigs, making it very difficult to complete the pass, and when the Heat steal these passes, it is off to the races for Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. The best example of both of this was last spring, when Roy Hibbert broke out and made himself a national household name in the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 22.14 points and 10.43 rebounds against Miami. Though this is also the best example the other way around too, when in game seven Miami swarmed to the bigs and denied entry passes, stealing the ball, and leading to fast breaks. Thursday night New York was able to attack the paint, with 50% of New Yorks’ point coming from the paint. Laugh at this if you want, but Amar’e Stoudemire had the best +/- for the game, scoring in the paint and gobbling up the rebounds in 26 minutes, to help outrebound and punish the Heat in the paint. Stoudemire had 14 points and 11 rebounds for a +19 when he was in the game.