By John Schmeelk
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Let’s move past the idiocy surrounding Amar’e Stoudemire’s postgame temper tantrum.
The Knicks did some of the right things Monday night, but they did more things wrong. They faltered both offensively and defensively, and blame should not be laid at the feet of any individual player. Right now, the Heat just look like the better team.
It starts with the defense, which fell apart in New York’s first two games against the Heat. The major transformation the Knicks have undergone under Mike Woodson has come on the defensive end. The Knicks were one of the best teams in the league on that side of the court the last month of the season.
So where is that team? It’s certainly not the squad we saw flounder against the Heat in Games 1 and 2. The first game was understandable, with the Heat getting so many baskets in transition. No one can stop LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in transition.
Game 2 was a different story. The Knicks made Miami play a grind-it-out halfcourt game, but the defense wasn’t any better. Miami shot 52 percent from the field, 43 percent from behind the arc, got to the line 27 times and turned it over only eight times. It will be impossible for the Knicks to win in this series if the defense does not improve. A lot of it had to do with Iman Shumpert’s injury and Wade’s subsequent 11-18, 25 point destruction of Landry Fields. Jared Jeffries’ bad knee doesn’t help, nor does Tyson Chandler’s illness.
But the rest of the team needs to step up. Too many times Stoudemire was caught sleeping on help-defense, committing soft fouls on LeBron after getting over to help late. Fields lost track of Wade without the ball, resulting in dunks and layups. Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers had a bunch of wide-open threes. The Heat are better than the Knicks, and New York will have no chance of winning if they keep making very basic mistakes.
Offensively, the Knicks shot 49 percent and only turned it over 13 times. They weren’t brutal offensively, but there are areas to improve. It was pretty obvious Carmelo Anthony came off of that Game 1 embarrassment and decided the only way the Knicks could win a game in the series was if he scored 40 points.
It was clear from the get-go Monday night that Carmelo had interest in only one thing: shooting. Many of the great things he did to transform himself late in the season fell by the wayside as Anthony settled into bad habits.
Clyde Frazier pointed it out a number of times that Carmelo had his head down and was missing open teammates. He took contested jump shots against double teams, and only collected one assist the entire game. Likewise on defense, there are times when he showed less than his best effort. Anthony needs to get back to playing like he did at the end of the season and realize that he can’t do it all himself.
The Heat are too good and Anthony needs to get his teammates to help him.
In fact, the Knicks played their best ball against the Heat when they played their pick and roll. Chandler and Amar’e had a number of free looks going towards the basket that resulted in layups, dunks or fouls. The Knicks’ offense was at its best when the ball was moving and they were taking advantage of the Heat’s aggressive defense. They need to get back to that.
It seems as though the Knicks have allowed the Heat and the pressure of the postseason to force them to get away from what worked so well at the end of the season. They need to relax on their homecourt, and play the way they did down the stretch of the season.
It still might not be good enough to win, but at least it would be something that Knicks fans can appreciate and be somewhat proud of.
Otherwise, the Knicks season will end like every other one has in recent memory: complete disaster.
You can follow me on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports @Schmeelk.
Will the Knicks step up at home and make this competitive? Be heard in the comments below…