LeBron James, at his best, is a level above almost everyone in the NBA. Unstoppable, like he was against the New York Knicks in game 1 of the Heat-Knicks first round playoff series, leading Miami to an easy 100-67 win.
It’s nice to explode, in a positive way, on the opener of the first series of the playoffs. The Knicks, who were running hot during April and generally under Mike Woodson looked nothing like a team that can present any sort of opponent to the Heat, who had only three players in double figures on the night and little else than James’ ability on both ends of the floor.
Carmelo Anthony was out of his depth. Starting with 0-7, he finished with 10 points, shooting 3-15 from the field. Nothing reminiscent of the Anthony everyone praised during April. Of his leadership, of his defense. None of that was in effect in Miami on Saturday night.
Tyson Chandler was maybe the most disappointing player. Yes, the referees were giving the Knicks a bad time. But to lose your head like that, right in the middle of a slide that Chandler seemed to be the only defensive player capable of stopping? In excusable, and Chandler lucked out that he didn’t get ejected after the refs ‘softened’ their call when he blindsided James with a dirty screen.
The Knicks weren’t destroyed by the Celtics last year, but they did get swept by them in the first round. A year gone, a different coach, and what seemed like an improved team should have done better. Not necessarily win, but at least show a bit more of a fighting spirit. A bit more of basketball wits, instead of caving as the Heat turned up the intensity and defensive pressure.
James was at his best because he wasn’t Point-Forwarding the game. He was at his best because of his defense, and Miami’s in general, making it impossible for the Knicks to get easy points and score under the basket, doing a wonderful job in drawing charges. James was at his best because of shot selection. Taking only one three pointer and just driving inside the rest of the times. The Knicks, with Chandler or without him, couldn’t deal with that.
Although first games are often over emphasized in importance, it was a mental blow to the Knicks. Once again, they look like a team that can’t hang on to the big boys. Without Jeremy Lin running the point or even with him, this team just doesn’t have enough talent and Basketball IQ and heart to fight their way through a series against a better team. Even if they did, with James playing like he’s started the series off, I’m not sure it would have mattered.