By Max Marcilla
Knicks 102 Heat 90
With the news earlier in the day that the LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Mario Chalmers were all sidelined for the matchup between the Knicks and the Heat, many Knick fans thought this would be an easy win. Luckily, the Knicks did win, but it wasn’t at all easy, especially in the first half.
Immediately in the first quarter, Carmelo Anthony reminded the NBA world that there was still a superstar playing in the game. Anthony finished 7/8 from the field, with 17 points, his only miss being a “heat check” three-point attempt. A solid start offensively and defensively propelled the Knicks out to a 2 point lead as the first buzzer sounded.
Unfortunately for New York, the second quarter was a completely different story. The back-ups on the Heat took over, scoring 33 points in the quarter alone. All quarter, the defensive technique of switching that Coach Woodson uses every game wasn’t working. Mike Miller scored 16 points, 12 points off of his three-pointers. Not only did Miller come off the bench and temporarily turned the game around, but veterans Shane Battier and Ray Allen also led the Heat to a 58-50 halftime lead.
When the Knicks needed a change, they got it. They needed something positive and whatever Coach Woodson did at halftime to enforce the defensive intensity worked, as the Knicks allowed 32 points over the next two quarters.
While the Heat struggled to hit shots, whether contested or open, the Knicks started to get their offensive rhythm back. Although the Knick lead never extended itself into double digits until the final 2 minutes, the game was obviously going the Knicks way. The Knicks completely dominated the Heat in the second half, deserving the double-digit win to take the season series against the Heat 3 games to 1.
Obviously Carmelo Anthony was the MVP of this game. He tied his career high by scoring 50 points. If anyone had doubts about his recent shooting slump, this game proved to them that he is over that and ready to perform at a high level. I noticed two particular things about Melo. First, he isn’t forcing three-pointers at the significant rate he was in March when he shot 26% from beyond the arc. Secondly, he looks healthy. Since his knee procedure, he has come back better than ever. He told Tina Cervasio said in his post-game interview, he credits his success to his health.
I also loved the point guard play out of the Knicks, particularly Raymond Felton. Felton got off to a terrible start, as he turned the ball over a lot and couldn’t make a shot. However when the Knicks needed him the most in the fourth quarter, he came through, as he ended up with an impressive stat line: 10 points 4 of 9 from the field, 9 assists and a +15 +/-. In addition to Felton, Pablo Prigioni has had a huge effect on the team. Since he came into the starting rotation, the Knicks are 9-0, resulting in a lot more dishing and less turnovers.
One last note I have about this game is about the big men, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Chandler played tonight for the first time since he sat out 10 straight due to various injuries, including a bulging disc in his neck. Despite the fact that he only had 1 point and 2 rebounds, he did help the team. His defense was spectacular at times. He gave that presence in the paint that a former Defensive Player of the Year should bring. While Chandler did struggle at times, Kenyon Martin made up for him. He was dominant in the paint, providing good defense, an occasional put back basket and a ton of good hard fouls that forced Miami to earn their points at the line.
The team effort on the defensive end in the second half was spectacular and now the Knicks have set that as an expectation. Tomorrow night, the Knicks play in Atlanta against the Hawks. For the Knicks to win, their big men will need to step up and stop Josh Smith. Josh torched the Knicks last time they played, so number one priority is to shut him down. If they can hold Smith and keep him limited on the scoring end, as well as the glass, expect the Knicks to win their 10th straight.