The Miami Heat came into Friday's game at MSG in desperate need of contributors, with injuries and trades limiting them to just nine players. How did that work out for them?
The Heat dressed nine players against the Knicks tonight. Eight of them scored in double-figures.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) February 21, 2015
Yep, the Knicks were done in by astonishing balance. Shabazz Napier led the Heat with a career-high 18 points, hitting circus shots every which way, and Miami cruised in the second half en route to an easy 111-87 victory.
These are the nights when I get genuinely concerned with Derek Fisher's coaching abilities. The Heat have been a small-ball team for years now, and they were even more so on Friday night, in the absence of Chris Bosh. Yes, the Knicks are short of guards, but you simply cannot end up with Lance Thomas on Dwyane Wade and Andrea Bargnani on Luol Deng, as happened multiple times in this game. As much as we used to get on Mike Woodson for his bigness fetish, even he wouldn't have tried that.
In the end, that bigness amounted to precisely dick -- the Heat out-rebounded New York, 50-32. As Walt Clyde Phraser so succinctly and eloquently put it, the Knicks farted all over the court, particularly in the second half.
- Bargs. Bargs Bargs Bargsy-Bargs-Bargs. As dumb as it is to play Bargnani in any game -- period -- it was doubly stupid to play him in this game against a smallish Heat squad. It was triply stupid to play him at power forward, as Fisher did on multiple occasions. If Bargnani is anything in this league, he is a center. He probably isn't even that.
On the plus side, he did do this:
- Langston Galloway, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon played like New York's three best players on Friday...which makes sense, because at this point they pretty much are New York's three best players. Each guard scored at least 11 points and dished at least four dimes:
- Galloway: 19 points (7-14 shooting), four assists, two steals, three turnovers
- Hardaway: 17 points (6-9 shooting), four assists, two steals, four turnovers
- Calderon: 11 points (5-10 shooting), nine assists, two steals, three turnovers
Galloway in particular was great defending Wade -- backing off him on the perimeter, staying in front of him, forcing him to shoot off-balance jumpers. Yes, they had a hard time checking Napier, but I'll take this effort from all three of them every time.
- Lou Amundson was quite good in the third quarter, dropping seven quick points and looking quick and feisty. He didn't play again. Yet another "I hope they're doing this for the tank" moment.
- There have been many criticisms leveled at the Triangle -- chief among them is the idea that the offense doesn't produce enough corner threes. This game showed that to be a lot of horse hockey...horse hockey, I say! New York moved the ball with ease in the first half, leading to several wiiiiide-open corner looks.
The problem was that those looks usually ended up belonging to Lance Thomas, who managed to take zero threes. He stepped inside the line...and shot bricks. He did has patented pump-and-stumble-wildly-toward-the-rim move...and shot more bricks. He ended 1-9 from the field, and that doesn't begin to tell the story of how useless he was on offense.
I like you, Lance; I like your weird-but-effective D. But if you don't start taking some of those open threes, you can get the hell off this team.
- Travis Wear played for only the second time in New York's last nine games, and the Platinum Playboy came to shine -- four points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks in 16 minutes. This kid can do things -- NBA things -- and he is never afraid. Please don't bury him again, Fisher.
- Cleanthony Early struggled in his second career start, picking up two fouls in his first three minutes and shooting 1-7 from the field. And you know what? I don't care. He took open looks from three (and missed), got to the rim (and missed) and generally did the things I wanted to see him do. He should start again.
And so the Knicks have now lost six games in a row. I'm sure they'll win another one before the end of the season...I'm just not sure when. Save us, Alexey Shved...you're our only hope!