For the second time this season, the New York Knicks beat the defending NBA champions Miami Heat by 20 points. This time on the road, and without Carmelo Anthony. It speaks volumes as to how good the Knicks really are, and how big some problems are for the Miami Heat.
Because if on a night when LeBron James has one of his best games of the season, finishing with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, the Heat aren’t even close to being competitive for an entire half, it means that Mike Woodson has done a hell of a job. The Knicks are getting criticized for shooting more three pointers than anything else, but they’re doing it the right way, and breaking down defenses along the way.
This time? They made 18 for 44, which makes it a total of 37 three pointers against the Miami heat in their two first games against each other. It’s the first time in NBA history that a team made 18+ three pointers in each of 2 straight games vs the same team. It’s also the first time since the 2007-2008 season that a team recorded a pair of 20 point wins against a defending champion. The Knicks also did this to the Heat in 2006-2007.
This wasn’t just some ordinary loss. This was the Miami Heat giving up at some point during the fourth quarter, a team that eventually suffered its worst home loss during the LeBron-Wade-Bosh era.
And it’s easy to mention only the three point shooting for the Knicks, in this game and in this season, but it’s more than that. Getting back Jason Kidd, the Knicks’ passing and defending was very similar to the very early days of the season. The ability to keep the Miami Heat’s players out of the paint, forcing them to a 42.1% from the field (they’re nearly 50% against the rest of the league) with physical defense around Tyson Chandler. Their ability to move the ball quickly to create those open three point shots. At a certain point, Miami stopped chasing.
Raymond Felton got to be the poster boy of this win. He hit six three points shots, and along with Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and J.R. Smith finished with multiple successes from beyond the arc. He finished with 27 points and 7 assists. The Heat might have won the fast break contest 17-2, but they simply had no answer when it became a three point shooting contest.
The Knicks are third in the NBA when it comes to three point percentage, making 40.7% of their shots. The Heat are one place above them, but they’re much more cautious with their shooting, preferring to score from close range when it’s possible. No one puts up as many threes as the Knicks do, with 29.7 per game, 3.3 more than the next team. They also make more three pointers than anyone else, 12.1. It might seem a bit streaky and risky to some, but it’s not just jacking up shots without trying to get things done. They’re working to create those shots, open shots, which later become easy baskets when defenses have to spread out and leave the paint with a vacancy sign lit up.
The numbers are probably going to drop slightly, but not by much. The Knicks have plenty of good shooters and right kind personnel to execute a game plan that leans on their ability to make the open shots. They have two point guards on the floor that make this happen, and that’s even without Carmelo Anthony. The Heat, among other things, have a complacency problem in certain games, which comes with the territory. But the Knicks are for real, and they’re here to stay with us for more than just one playoff round this time.