I'm not too upset about that loss. After looking comically outmatched in their previous two games against the Heat, the Knicks hung with Miami even without anybody but Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith around to provide offense. Their defense was mostly solid, and even when the Heat went on runs, it felt like they were doing so by making crazy moves and sinking contested jumpers off the bounce. They'll do that now and then, and it makes them pretty difficult to stop.
While it wasn't a terribly discouraging loss, the Knicks really could have taken this one. After falling behind by double digits, the Knicks rolled right back into the game and kept it close until midway through the fourth quarter. But the accumulation of familiar small mistakes bit the Knicks in their collective ass. A serial failure to box out let the Heat rebound 11 of their 42 misses. Though the Knicks got to the line more than the Heat did, they lost that battle by hitting just 14 of 23 free throws. And down the stretch, New York's offense froze up and resorted to arrhythmic outside attempts. The Heat started drilling jumpers again in the fourth, and the Knicks just didn't have the manpower to keep pace.
So, it was moderately encouraging to see New York actually compete with Miami even while missing two starters, but it was a bit of a disappointment to watch them miss out on a chance to win because they racked up errors of effort and execution. Like gymtanlandry said in the thread, New York had some wonderful stretches, but it takes a bit more consistency to beat a team like the Heat.
Take the jump for some individual notes 'n' stuff.
- Fleshin' out a couple important numbers: Heat: 47 rebounds, 11 offensive. Knicks: 33 rebounds, 7 offensive. Heat: 17-21 from the line. Knicks: 14-23 from the line. Those o-bounds and missed free throws'll get ya.
- Carmelo Anthony didn't stop cookin' soup. He missed his traditional first shot off a curl, but got going not long afterward. The Heat, to my eye, didn't throw a lot of doubles at Melo, so he looked for his own shot in isolation pretty often and was quite successful in doing so. He hit 14 of 27 shots, went 12-15 from the line, and scored 42 points, tacking on nine rebounds, five assists (including a couple gorgeous passes into and out of the paint), and a couple fine defensive plays. It was a nice mix of pull-ups, dribble drives, and savvy fakes to draw contact. Down the stretch, Melo started rushing jumpers a bit, but didn't get the same results that he did against the Bulls (or that the Heat did on the other end). We're still cool, though. Melo played an amazing game.
- J.R. Smith was the only bro besides Melo to give the Knicks anything on offense. He came in and drilled a couple open threes off good ball movement, made some lovely entry passes, and got to the rim once or twice in the first half. Smith added a couple more nice threes off the catch in the second half, but got to chucking a bit during that fourth quarter when New York's ball movement dried up. Earl also had one rather stylin' transition dunk off a nice poke-away in the early fourth quarter. New York's collapse began immediately after that, though, so...yeah.
- Landry Fields didn't look any better or worse than Smith did on defense, but his offense just wasn't there. Even while guarded by Udonis Haslem, Fields still couldn't get anything going off the dribble, couldn't hit an open shot, and didn't get the transition opportunities he loves to make up for all that. He got better looks in the second half-- some nice moves past Haslem and at least one nice baseline cut-- but only got one of those attempts to drop.
- Iman Shumpert hit one corner three, but that was it for his offense. His defense on Dwyane Wade wasn't great early on-- he had a lot of trouble tracking Wade off the ball and got pretty soundly torched-- but improved as the game progressed. The highlight of Shump's defense was definitely the sequence in which he stripped Wade on consecutive possessions to generate fast breaks (one of which ended in him committing a charge, the other which led to a beautiful no-look dish to a Fields lay-in). 'Twas a very Shumpy opening to the fourth quarter. Oh, and I was lying about that three being his only offense. Shump had to play a lot of point guard and tossed five assists to just one turnover during that span. He made some really nice entry passes off the dribble.
- Tyson Chandler didn't have a great day of basketball-playing. Early on, he spent a lot of time either giving Chris Bosh to much space to operate or just getting beat by Bosh on the move. Chandler picked up his second foul by ramming his finger up Bosh's nose six minutes into the game (worth it), and was never really in a rhythm after that. Perhaps because of that unusual match-up, Chandler's boxing out was spotty, and he was a spectator for several of Miami's offensive rebounds (though he obviously could have used some more help. It's never purely Tyson's fault). On offense, he did a great job finishing and drawing fouls when the ball came his way, but just didn't get many looks against Miami's defense. Thankfully, the knee injury he sustained in the third quarter doesn't sound like anything serious.
- Jared Jeffries got beat a few times as well, but did some thangs in his now-customary 15-minute stint. He drew a charge, made a nice kick-out to an open three, forced a turnover that led to an open dunk, and converted a dunk of his own off a perfect pick-and-roll with Earl. Oh, and he got his eye cut open at some point and had to get stitches.
- I didn't think Baron Davis played that badly-- he threw some great passes and made some pretty neat dribbling moves-- but looking back at my notes and the box score, I see now that he had a pretty rough outing. Baron shot just 1-6, committed five turnovers, and just lost Mario Chalmers a couple times. I wish today was Baron's birthday.
- The Heat defended Steve Novak very well at the beginning of his stint, so he was releasing the ball much more quickly than he usually does. On a couple of his attempts, he pretty much slapped the ball toward the rim with both hands. Later on, though, he got a couple shots to fall in one set play and another nice look off a kick-out. Novak ended up 2-5 from downtown, though he would've had another three if Shumpert hadn't been called for that charge when he bumped into James Jones.
- Also, there was this one play where Novak drove baseline, jumped in the air, and double-clutched, and I genuinely thought for a moment that we were going to see him attempt a reverse lay-up. I don't know what would have happened. Fireworks? Tidal wave?
- Mike Bibby played.
- Snaps to Smith and Shumpert for doing what they could to contribute on the defensive boards while Chandler struggled. Earl pulled down five d-bounds while Shump grabbed four and helped out with several others. Fields did not give his usual contributions on the glass, which was a bummer.
That's pretty much all I've got for now. The Knicks competed with Miami, which was a nice, reassuring change. However, a shorthanded team playing against Wade, Bosh, and James just can't afford to get so badly out-rebounded and miss so many free throws. Oh well. Celtics on Tuesday.