Game 1 could not have gone much worse for the Knicks and their fan base. The following post breaking down the grades for the team will reflect that.
Coaching: Grade: D
There is not much to be said about this one. Since the last meeting between the Knicks and Heat on April 15th, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has done more to change game plans than Knicks head coach Mike Woodson and it showed in Game 1.
The first evidence on this was the difference in how the Heat guarded Carmelo Anthony. They started off fronting him in the post and mid-range areas with whoever was guarding him, most cases being Lebron James or Shane Battier. A trap would then come from another member of the Heat defense. This effectively took Anthony out of the offense, forcing him to pass the ball to his teammates hoping they would make a playoff or into tough shot attempts. The Heat were well prepared on stopping the Knicks superstar and the Knicks had nothing to retaliate with.
The only reason this grade is not an F is because Woodson did have his squad ready to come out and compete mentally and physically. But Anthony had a rough start, causing a collapse of the Knicks offense and a hole being created that Woodson could not get his guys out of. A potential reason for this happening is the success the Woodson and the Knicks have been having running their half-court offense through Anthony recently. Once that was shut down by the Heat, the Knicks were lost on offense and the Heat built an insurmountable lead.
Woodson flashed some of his frustration uncharacteristally picking up a technical foul early in the 3rd quarter. A combination of his team struggling and some questionable calls from the officials put Woodson over the edge. Look for Woodson and Knicks to have a more complete game plan the next time these teams face off Monday night.
Backcourt: Grade: D+
Baron Davis is single handedly responsible for this not being an F. Even though the Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks struggled in the 1st quarter on offense, Davis picked up the slack scoring 10 points. He knocked down two 3 pointers and even finished a fast break with a dunk. It was still obvious watching that Davis is limited because of numerous injuries he is playing through. Davis would eventually hurt his back and not return to the game.
Iman Shumpert was quite most of the night as well. He had a nice sequence early in the game against Dwayne Wade but was not heard of much from after that. Being a rookie playing in his first playoff game it looked like he was slightly intimidated; especially with whom the opponent for the Knicks was. Sadly, Shumpert was not able to finish out the game as he suffered a left knee injury in the 3rd quarter.
The injury is a devastating one for Shumpert and the Knicks, as he tore his left ACL and lateral meniscus. He will miss the remainder of the playoffs and will be sidelined another 6-8 months. Surgery is scheduled for Monday afternoon back in New York.
Frontcourt: Grade: F
It is hard to argue with this grade. When your two superstars in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire effectively do not show up for a game, there is no higher of a grade you can give. Anthony was shut down and dominated by Lebron James right from the outset. James smothered Anthony on defense for most of the night barely giving him enough space to breathe. Anthony missed his first seven shots of the game, and ended up with 11 points on 3-15 shooting.
For whatever reason, Anthony seemed hesitant at times on offense. He was not his normal attack the defense self that he has been for the last month. Let’s just hope this was an off game for Anthony and that he will bounce back. Anthony did at least grab 10 rebounds and was aggressive in doing that.
Stoudemire was mired in foul trouble for a lot of the game and was unable to get into much of a rhythm. His highlight came in the first quarter when he finished with a thunderous dunk through the heart of the Miami defense. Other than that he was pretty much a non-factor, scoring only nine points on 2-7 shooting.
Defense: Grade: F
The score should provide all the reason you need behind this grade. While the Heat scored 100 points, the Knicks tied a franchise low in scoring 67.
The health of Tyson Chandler will be something to pay attention to throughout the series. Without him playing up to his normal abilities, the Heat slashed through the Knicks defense at will. There was little resistance given and the Heat took advantage ending up with 33 free throw attempts compared to 11 for the Knicks (this was not all the Knicks fault as it seemed that the referees had strict instructions that Lebron James and the Heat needed all the help they could get.).
Another thing that does not help this is the availability of Jared Jeffries. He is battling a knee injury and is visibly restricted by it. He is limited to only 15 minutes per game, and was said to be great amount of pain after Saturday afternoon’s game logging only seven minutes. With all three of the Knicks defensive stoppers in Chandler, Jeffries and Shumpert either battling injuries or already out, it will fall upon the other Knicks to step up their game.
Bottom line is that the Heat came prepared in stopping the Knicks superstars and the Knicks could not do the vice versa. The Knicks looked lost on defense while the Heat prepared a game plan and worked it to perfection.
Bench: Grade: B
The bench was the only real positive for the Knicks in this one. J.R. Smith, Steve Novak and Landry Fields all did what was expected of them in the game.
Smith struggled at times with his handle, turning the ball over four times, but he was not alone in that as the Knicks tied a franchise high with 24 turnovers. Where Smith exceled was attacking the paint. He showed no fear going up against James on the defensive end was confidently shooting the ball from the perimeter.
Novak did what he normally does, knocking down both his 3 point attempts. He also added four rebounds, something the Knicks will need more of with the health concerns of Chandler and Jeffries. Fields provided energy and a spark off the bench in his short 18 minutes of playing time. Look for Fields role to change for the remainder of the series though, as he is likely to rejoin the starting five with the injury to Shumpert.