It simply had to be this way for the New York Knicks, playing in the Madison Square Garden against the NBA champions, with the numbers of victims from Hurricane Sandy’s wrath keep accumulating Carmelo Anthony spoke before the game about coming together, and backed up every single word with a great game, full of leadership some suggest Anthony lacked in the past.
When a team hits 19 three pointers, it’s extremely hard to lose. The Heat weren’t prepared for the Knicks’ small ball, which puts Carmelo Anthony at power forward, but the team still played with a true center and made life very difficult for the NBA champions to get things going in the paint. Instead, the Heat tried to outshoot the Knicks, and with a sluggish, lazy looking offense, they just couldn’t keep up.
The Knicks had a 16 point lead in the first quarter, but the second unit and Dwyane Wade got them back in the game. Third quarter and fourth quarter? Too much good ball movement and smart basketball from the Knicks. When you’re talking about the oldest team in the NBA, you shouldn’t be surprised that what you get is smart, not flashy, basketball.
Carmelo Anthony took 28 shots, making only 10 of them. He still finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, continuing the trend from last season, playing much better as the 4 on the offense. It doesn’t make Amare Stoudemire redundant but it does mean Mike Woodson has some thinking and decision to make regarding his lineup and the Knicks’ style when Stoudemire comes back in 5-6 weeks.
The Heat trapped every pick n’ roll and tried to double team at every opportunity. As usual, they count on their superior speed and game reading on defense to manage and reach the open man. But Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd started together, and the Knicks’ small ball along with fantastic perimeter and inside-out passing was too quick, too much for the Heat to react to. All that was left was hitting open shots, and while Anthony struggled beyond the first quarter, the damage he did early on was enough to open up things for others later on.
Steve Novak was perfect on the catch and shoot, making 5-8 from beyond the arc, finishing with 17 points. Felton, Kidd and J.R. Smith were also big with multiple baskets from three point range. Every time the Heat got close, a barrage of tres came pouring down on them. Every mistake they made (21 turnovers) was punished, thanks to some sloppy transition defense on the part of Miami.
But the Knicks can’t expect this to be the case every time. It was nice having Kurt Thomas give some meaningful minutes (played 16) and Rasheed Wallace please the crowd with 3 late minutes, hitting the exlamation three pointer of the night. Their 19 three pointers were the most ever scored by a team on a season opener. Almost a kind of an anomaly. The Knicks were 50% on their catch and shoot, scoring 46 points that way – a huge difference from the 30.7% they shot against the Heat in last season’s postseason.
Regular season wins are a lot about energy on given nights. The Heat were never going to match the Knicks energy-wise on a night like this. The question is if this is the real Knicks – a smart team that can shoot like this every night, or is this the same flawed, just older this time around, group we usually know, who got lucky on an emotional night.