By John Schmeelk
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When a team goes down 3-0 in a series, often times they scrap and find a way to win a Game 4 at home the way the Knicks did on Sunday. The leading team might not be completely engaged, or comfortable with such a commanding lead. The team down 3-0 is playing for pride and desperate. These things happen in the NBA. Then Game 5 comes and more often than not, the superior team that leads 3-1 stops playing around and puts an end to it. These games have the tendency to get ugly fast. More than likely, that’s exactly what’s going to happen to the Knicks tonight.

Vegas has the Heat as an 11-point favorite, and rightfully so. They were dominant at home all year, and the Knicks were equally poor on the road. The Knicks are down to Zombie Bibby and Toney Douglas at point guard. Yup, that means we are going to see long spurts of JR Smith running the show. That should be entertaining. Amar’e Stoudemire still only has one good hand. Tonight, the Heat are out for the kill and will come out flying. To withstand all these things, the Knicks need to play a near perfect game. They need to do all these things to beat the Heat tonight:

  1. Turn it over fewer than 15 times. The Heat relish transition baskets, which invariably come off of turnovers. With their point guard woes, expect the Heat to put on a lot of ball pressure early and try to get easy baskets. If the Knicks turn it over a lot this game has blowout written all over it.
  2. Shoot 40%+ from three-point land. The Knicks are the worst shooting team from behind the arc so far in the playoffs, hitting only 27% of their attempts. Everyone needs to get hot, from Mike Bibby to JR Smith to Carmelo Anthony. Getting Steve Novak some open looks would help too. But that will only help if the Knicks…
  3. Move the ball. The Knicks cannot win a game in Miami with Carmelo Anthony scoring 46% of the team’s points. JR Smith needs to score more than 15. Landry Fields needs to get some points going towards the basket, and maybe even hit an open jump shot. (No, seriously, it’s possible.) Mike Bibby must make the Heat pay for leaving him open, and so must Josh Harrellson, who has plenty of range. Steve Novak has only gotten off nine shots in this series. The only way he gets going is if the Knicks move the ball. The Knicks need 35 points out of those five players. Baron Davis’ absence might actually help in this respect, since he has held the ball an awful lot this series. The Knicks need to get movement off of…
  4. A lot of pick-and-roll sets. Mike Bibby can run it, but I would prefer JR Smith, Carmelo Anthony and even Landry Fields. The Heat are so aggressive on the ball-handler, and both Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire should have opportunities to roll to the basket and get some easy looks. Chandler and Stoudemire need to combine for 30-35 points and dominate the paint on both sides of the ball, and…
  5. Rebound the basketball.The Heat are better than the Knicks, so they have to outrebound them, especially when Miami goes small. The Knicks must be at least plus-five on the boards if they want to win this game. Of course, none of this will matter unless…
  6. Carmelo Anthony plays like a star. This does not mean he has to score 40. I’d be more comfortable with 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He also needs to play good defense on LeBron James. He needs to do everything. Is this unfair? Yup. But with all the Knicks injuries there really is no other recourse. Most important of all, Carmelo Anthony needs to be efficient and make the right decisions. If his teammates fail him, so be it. He needs to play the right way. If he doesn’t, the team doesn’t have a chance.

What are the chances that everything comes together like this? Slim to none. I’m also assuming that the Knicks’ defensive intensity travels to Miami, which is no sure thing.  Of course if the Knicks do manage to somehow win tonight, all the pressure shifts to the Heat as they travel to what will be an insane Madison Square Garden on Friday night. Then things will be interesting. But until then, Knicks fans can do only one thing: pray.


– Now Knicks writers are going to go do the easy thing and kill Jeremy Lin for not playing despite being 85%. First of all, that’s a made-up number by Lin, who really has no idea. Secondly, not one person on the planet besides Lin knows what his body feels like. If he thought he could help the team, he would play. No one has ever doubted his competitive spirit, and it’s unfair to do so now.

You can follow me on Twitter here for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.

How much of a chance do you give the Knicks in their must-win contest against the Heat tonight? Offer your thoughts and comments below…

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