Written by William Lee
With everyone counting down the hours, the minutes, on the eve of NFL Super Bowl XLVIII, the New York Super Bowl weekend included one huge basketball match-up in the metro area as well.
The Defending Champions Miami Heat came into town, showing that defense wins championships. The Heat made sure to not let Carmelo Anthony get into any offensive rhythm. Sending defensive stalwart Shane Battier to guard him, Battier made it tough for Anthony, constantly fronting him, forcing him to work very hard to even catch the ball. When Anthony was finally able to possess the ball, another Heat would swarm in Anthony’s direction to double team him, forcing him to take a bad shot, or pass the ball out. Anthony wasn’t making good decisions, turning the ball over seven times in a 106-91 defeat to the Miami Heat. Anthony finished the game with 26 points 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Shane Battier hounded Anthony into committing three turnovers and scoring only four points in the first quarter, whom normally would be closer to double figures as the Knicks’ primary option on offense. Battier wasn’t only getting it done of the defensive end, he also got it done on the offensive end, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, knocking down three three-pointers in the process. With all the attention paid to Carmelo Anthony, J.R Smith got loose for the Knicks early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, and finishing the game with 20 points. Smith’s early contributions kept New York in the game, but the Heat went on a 10-2 run to end the first quarter to take a 29-22 lead.
The Heat led by as much as 14 points mid-way through the second quarter, propelled by Dwayne Wade’s nine points in the period. Wade was unstoppable, scoring on tough mid-range jumpers, as well as slashing to the rim for 22 points in the game. The Knicks though did not give up, going on an 11-2 run bridging from the end of the second quarter and into the opening minutes of the third, to get within a possession 53-51.
Miami would respond immediately, going on a 15-4, fueled by the Knicks turnovers. New York committed five turnovers in the third quarter, 17 in total for the game. New York was too careless with the ball Saturday night, making poor decisions. There were way too many cross court passes attempted by the Knicks, which was easily stolen by the Heat. And it wasn’t like New York didn’t know this was coming, Miami is first in the league in forcing opponents to turn over the ball at 17.4 per game, as well as top five in team steals at 8.9 per game. Simply put the Knicks needed to take care of the basketball against the Miami Heat, and they didn’t. New York didn’t help their own cause, when they just kept fouling (some of the calls were questionable) at the end of the third quarter, fouling on five consecutive possessions to end the period. Miami shot 11 free throws in the third quarter, converting on seven of them.
A three-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr. cut the Miami lead to five to start the fourth quarter, the rookie followed up his career high 29 points, with 17 points Saturday night. New York was able to again cut the Miami lead to five again with nine minutes left in the game, but that would be as close as the Knicks would ever get, as Norris Cole was personally responsible for an 8-2 run, scoring six points and assisting on a Chris Bosh jumper. The run gave Miami a double digit led again, 92-81 with 5:45 remaining in the game. Cole’s play was the most pivotal part of the game, and completely changed the momentum in favor of Miami, he had the best +/- of any player in the game, with +17. Lebron James closed the door shut on the Knicks, extending the led to as much as 16 points, making a few tough fade away jumpers. James finished the game with 30 points 8 rebounds 7 assists, and 6 steals.
Tonight was the type of game where New York really missed the presence of Iman Shumpert. It is a given what Lebron is going to do, but New York really needed a defensive guard to slow down Dwyane Wade. Shumpert would have been given the assignment to guard him, yes he gambles a lot, and is overly aggressive at times, picking up too many ticky tack fouls, but it is still better than having Tim Hardaway Jr. guarding Wade. Hardaway Jr. at this point in his career is just a scorer, he hardly gets any rebounds, steals, or blocks. But defense isn’t just what you see on the stat sheet, he does not cover his own man well, nor does he rotate well on defense. Shumpert presence would have definitely changed the game, but you have to weigh out the positives and negatives, because for what Hardaway Jr. lacks in defense, Shumpert lacks in offense. New York didn’t help themselves either tonight, stabbing themselves in the foot, missing nine free throws, converting on only 60.9% of attempts. The most noteworthy one was when Carmelo Anthony got fouled on a three-point attempt, and proceeded to miss three straight free throws.