By John Schmeelk
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It was Murphy’s Law for the Knicks on Saturday afternoon. Tyson Chandler, the team’s MVP this year, got the flu at the wrong time. Their rookie phenom and best perimeter defender blew out his knee trying to make a simple cut, and is lost for the season. Baron Davis, the team’s only competent point guard, re-injured his back. Carmelo Anthony started the game missing everything he threw at the basket. Calls started going to the Heat’s way, and everything snowballed into a worst case scenario 100-67 embarrassment. A worse script could not have been written.
But the series is only 1-0. The good thing about such a terrible performance is that it’s easy to push aside, forget and move on from. The Heat are not 33 points better than the Knicks and both teams know that. There are a few very simple things the Knicks can do to turn things around in Game 2. Their issues on Saturday started in the second quarter when Shane Battier entered the game and denied the ball to Carmelo Anthony, preventing an easy pass on the wing.
What should have been an easy coaching adjustment turned into apocalypse, with turnover after turnover and bad offensive possession after bad offensive possession. Off those twelve Knicks turnovers in the second quarter, the Heat got into transition and converted easy baskets. The Knicks knew that turning the ball over was the one thing they could not do in this series since the Heat are so good in transition. They did just that.
Part of this goes on Mike Woodson. Once Battier started fronting Carmelo Anthony and helping backside to prevent the lob, the rest of the Knicks team remained stagnant. This didn’t change for the entire quarter and numerous timeouts. All it takes is a simple pass to the high post to make the defense move and react. Either Carmelo Anthony will be wide open back door, or someone else will be. Instead everyone stood and watched as the Heat intercepted bad lob pass after bad lob pass.
The Heat defense, much like they did in the early season matchup, made life miserable on the Knicks guards with their pressure defense. No one could make a decent entry pass to Carmelo Anthony, who despite his bad shooting, played hard on defense, the boards and passed the ball when he finally got it in his hands. This game was not on Carmelo Anthony as much as people want it to be. When he was 0-7 in the first quarter, the Knicks were only down six, and they eventually brought it down to one at 30-29.
Shane Battier is old and over the hill. He is not the defender he used to be and cannot guard Carmelo Anthony. He got abused in the team’s last game again and again. The fact a simple fronting strategy could disrupt the Knicks so much is scary. No adjustments were made by the players or the coach. I would expect the Heat to come out with the same plan tonight, until the Knicks beat it. They’ll adjust, and then the Knicks will have to do the same. The offense must run through Carmelo, and he has to be able to catch the ball where is comfortable: 15-18 feet away from the basket on the wing. That’s where he will make his plays from.
The team’s poise was also non-existent when it came to the officials. Once the calls started going against the Knicks, they completely unraveled, something that is on the players and the coach. The hope has to be the team needed a game to get used to the playoffs and its uptick in intensity. They better have their act together in Game 2.
Is this series much harder with Iman Shumpert out? Yes. If the real Tyson Chandler doesn’t show up soon, can the Knicks hang with the Heat? Nope. But right now, the team is still in the series. It was small mistakes that led to the avalanche Saturday, not some fatal flaw. Correct those things and this series can still go a long way.
– This Iman Shumpert injury is really a killer, not just for this season, but for the future. Luckily, medicine has advanced so much, an ACL surgery is no longer a death knell. But even when he returns next season, he won’t be like his old self. That will have to wait until the next year when he is closer to two years off his surgery. Landry Fields now has to step up and play big time basketball. Last year he looked scared in the playoffs. He can’t be scared anymore.
– Amar’e Stoudemire was invisible on Saturday, and the Knicks can’t afford that. Of course, if they don’t have a guard that can get him the ball, his life is going to be made extremely difficult.
– Finally, on the officiating: It was terrible in Game 1. Seemingly every call went the Heat’s way. Tyson Chandler’s screen was probably an ordinary foul, but a flagrant is an absolute joke. He barely moved and only leaned in slightly on the screen. Where was the unnecessary contact? The Knicks had to know they weren’t going to get any calls in Miami and should have been better prepared. They showed no poise during that game, something that was very disturbing.
– It stink for the NBA that Derrick Rose is out for the rest of the playoffs. It takes away one of the league’s most dynamic players that people can enjoy watching. Don’t discount the Bulls, however, they can still go a long way. They won a ton of games without Rose in the regular season.
– I still think the Grizzlies beat the Clippers, comeback or not. They are the better team. I was impressed the Mavericks hung so tight with the Thunder and that series might be tighter than I originally thought.
You can follow Schmeelk on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports @Schmeelk.