Saturday, April 28, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat Position Match-Ups: Small Forward

This is the third installment in a series of posts breaking down the match-ups between the Knicks and Heat position by position.  The third match-up we will take a look at is the small forward position where the superstars reside.

Match-up: Carmelo Anthony vs. Lebron James

This is the match-up everyone will have their eyes on.  The superstar that wanted the limelight and bright lights of New York City and the superstar that shied away from it.  Carmelo Anthony vs. Lebron James.  They have been going at it against each other for years, dating back to their high school days.  There is no bigger stage to take their rivalry than the NBA playoffs.  Both will come out firing wanting to put on a show for a national audience.

Carmelo Anthony has had his most success against the Heat this season from the perimeter.  In the two regular season games versus the Heat this season, Anthony averaged four 3 point makes per game.  This works well for the Knicks because Anthony has been on fire from deep throughout April, shooting a Steve Novak-esque 46%.  If he can knock down his deep jumpers, it will force James to stay away from the basket guarding Anthony.  That will open up opportunities for the other Knick players to take advantage of. 

Anthony has also been able to exploit James while driving to the basket.  Anthony has one of, if not the quickest first step and blow by dribble in the NBA.  It makes it difficult for players to guard him because he can then explode and finish at the rim or shoot a pull-up jumper over a defender.  This style of play also gives Anthony plenty of opportunities to get to the foul line.  Anthony averaged eight trips to the line for every 36 minutes James was on the court.  Obviously, not all the fouls counted against James but if Anthony can get James in foul trouble it will be one less superstar the Knicks have to worry about. 

The offense will run through Anthony and if he is able to knock down his shots and draw fouls it will force the Heat to throw more than one defender at him.  If the Heat show more focus on Anthony, he is a more than capable passer and will find the open teammate if given the chance.  It will then come down to the other Knicks making the most of Anthony’s passes to finish the job.

On the flip side, there are times Anthony may struggle.  It is nearly impossible for anyone to guard James, so that is where the challenge will come for Anthony.  When Anthony is committed to playing defense, he is capable of getting stops.  One example is the game the Knicks won in Miami last season when the final play of the game was Anthony forcing James into a tough shot at the rim and Amar’e Stoudemire coming over for the block.  That was great defensive effort.  But there are times he does not show that effort, and it hurts the Knicks.

You can count on Anthony bringing the intensity for this one, wanting to show people he’s just as good as James is.  But if Anthony is not on top of his game, the Knicks will struggle.  Anthony has to find a way to stay in front of James and not allow him to prance into the paint.  Such advances into the paint would destroy the Knicks defense as they would have to collapse on the driving James and leave open shots for his teammates.  It may also put Anthony in foul trouble, who has been prone to fouls this season; multiple times picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.  Not having Anthony on the court for any amount of time other than his normal rest would destroy the offense. 

There is a positive for this, as James has shot only 46% against the Knicks while Anthony was on the court.  That sounds good for an NBA player, but is 10% lower than his normal averages.  Even with that, the edge in this match-up is in the Heat’s favor.  It is closer than people think, but James has the edge on defense and that proves to be the difference in this match-up.

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