Knicks @ Miami: TNT 8pm
The Knicks are back in South Beach for the first time since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. With the grind out and buzzer beater win last night in Charlotte, make no mistake about it; this is a different New York Knicks team, however if Melo does not play due to his lacerated finger, the game will be a tough one to win. But make no mistake, this team takes care of the basketball, which was the first order of business for the Knicks before they can even begin to challenge the Heat in the East. The Knicks are first in the league in limiting turnovers. Secondly, the Knicks needed to share the ball and improve their shooting. The Knicks are now the no.1 team in Offensive efficiency and No. 3 in TS% (true shooting percentage), per John Hollinger and they are the second best three point shooting team at 42% with the most made. Thirdly, the Knicks needed to be more consistent defensively. The Knicks are No. 10 in defensive efficiency at 100.7 and No. 7 in points allowed per game.
Fourthly, Carmelo Anthony needed to lead on both ends of the floor. Carmelo is second in scoring and is in the discussion for MVP alongside, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul. His defensive improvement has been apparent all year, despite some lapses, he has lead by example. Finally, the Knicks needed to become good at slowing down the pace of action and controlling the game, especially against the Heat, who like to run and get out in transition after forcing turnovers. The Knicks have the third slowest pace in the NBA.
The Knicks have made all the necessary adjustments to challenge Miami since their last trip to Miami. The Knicks proved it on opening night in New York in a double digit win. Tonight, with a win, the Knicks can overtake Miami as the top seed in the East and go 2-0 over the defending NBA champions.
For Miami, Chris Bosh has moved over to the Center position permanently with either Shane Battier (game time decision) or Rashard Lewis starting at the four and LeBron James at his usual three positions. Mario Chalmers (game time decision) and Dwyane Wade start in the back-court. In the early going, Miami has been hampered by nagging injuries to Wade, Chalmers, Battier, and bench players, Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Joel Anthony, and Mike Miller.
Miami has struggled defensively and with rebounding, as they are 19th in both defensive efficiency and rebounding rate and 21st in points allowed per game. LeBron James has been the difference for Miami. He is having another MVP campaign, averaging nearly a triple double with 24.8 ppg, 9.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists, while shooting 53% from the field and 42% from three. Carmelo Anthony needs to work on shutting down LeBron in order to gain the advantage the Knicks need to let the rest of their offense flourish.
Ray Felton and Jason Kidd will both play and I expect to control the tempo from the outset. When Miami makes a run, the Knick veterans will need to keep their composure on the road in order to win. This Knicks team can do that and hopefully they learn from the Memphis and Brooklyn mishaps. Miami is also a top scoring team that can spread the floor and they are still deadly from the outside. It will come down to defensive intensity and closing out on three point shooters. Offensively, the Knicks need to run the pick and roll with Felton and Tyson, post Carmelo and knock down open three point shots. I have a feeling this will be a close game, but one that no Knick fan should be surprised we’re winning. GO KNICKS!