The recent run of wins by the New York Knicks, heralded by the amazing scoring spree Carmelo Anthony is currently on, has put them back into the discussion of being a serious contender for the NBA title in the eyes of some, but the fact remains that without fixing some defensive issues that have been plaguing them for quite a while, they’re not going to get that far.
The number one reason for the Knicks not being considered favorites to take the East despite their 12 game winning streak is the existence of the Miami Heat, and the 10 games separating the two teams in the standings. Yes, the Knicks have beaten Miami three times this season, including twice by 20 points during the first five weeks of the season. But that was the best New York has played this season, in compared to the worst Miami have played.
In their recent meetings, the Heat, during their 27-game winning streak, beat the Knicks at Madison Square Garden 99-93. More recently, during the Knicks’ impressive run, the Heat played without LeBron James and Dwyande Wade, while Carmelo Anthony seized the opportunity to shine, scoring 50 points. Despite the 3-1 season series win, there doesn’t seem to be a serious matchup problem for a well prepared and a lot more confident-at-this-point Miami Heat team when facing the Knicks.
Assuming the Knicks look past their problem of being an inferior team to Miami and Anthony being an inferior player to James, especially when the Heat send LeBron James out to guard him, it that their defense simply isn’t that good or consistent, despite the presence of someone like Tyson Chandler, while Mike Woodson hopes Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby will be healthy for when the playoffs begin, giving him a lot more options.
Carmelo Anthony got a lot of praise earlier this season on him being a changed player, but that was just camouflage. Anthony is an amazing pure scorer, but doesn’t have the desire to play good, not to mention great, defense, on too many possession. While the Knicks can match the Heat’s offensive ability, trailing them by only 2 points per 100 possessions offensively, they are also 3 points behind on defensive efficiency, which adds up to be quite a lot when you get to the bottom of it.
Not to mention not really having a consistent scorer to rely on. J.R. Smith is the Knicks’ second best scorer, averaging 17.8 points per game this season. His recent stretch isn’t as good as Anthony’s, who is shooting over 60% from the field in April, but he is averaging 24.3 points per game over the last 10 outings, shooting 50% from the field. But that’s the good side of the coin when it comes to Smith, who is also capable of attempting 10-15 shots each game when he’s making less than 40% for consecutive nights. Reliability and consistency isn’t the strongest part of his game.
Unlike their previous two postseason trips, the Knicks finally have home court advantage in the first and probably second round as well. The expectations are quite high as a result, with Anthony on his way to possibly win the scoring title for the first time in his career. With all of the good words spilt on him by his head coach, he isn’t a changed player. He’s shooting non-stop, hardly looking at other players and his defense is mediocre at best. The question of how far the Knicks get this season isn’t all up to them anyway, but if they are to reach the Conference finals, it’s going to take the guys around Anthony to play their best defense, hiding the fact that he’s an amazing scorer, and not much more.