This is the sixth and final installment in a series of posts breaking down the match-ups between the Knicks and Heat position by position. The last match-up will be between the bench units.
Coming into the season, both the Knicks and Heat had question marks about their second units. The Knicks were looked at as a team with only two scoring options and a bunch of other guys. The Heat had that problem last season and looked to alleviate it with the addition of Shane Battier to go along with a healthy Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. But now that the playoffs are actually here, it is the Knicks who have the more secure bench and Heat with question marks.
If the Knicks are looking to actually make noise in the series, the bench is going to have to gain a distinct advantage over the Heat. If you go by the regular season numbers that is exactly what the Knicks should be able to accomplish. The Knicks bench averaged a solid 30 points per game compared to 26 for the Heat’s bench.
There is a real possibility that number can skyrocket for the Knicks though based on the personnel and make up of each team’s second unit. The Heat’s focus is to stop the dribble drive of opponents, and that is something the Knicks should be able to take advantage of. If the slashers on the second unit in Landry Fields and J.R. Smith are able to attack the paint it will create open looks for the Knicks shooters. It will then fall on the shoulders of Steve Novak and J.R. Smith to knock down their open jump shots and make the most of the opportunities given to them.
Novak has been deadly all season from 3 point range and everyone knows how capable Smith is of going off at any moment. If Fields is able to regain any of his shooting form from last year in addition to the hot streak Carmelo Anthony has been on the Knicks will be deadly. Any threat the Knicks can work up outside of Novak and Smith will be a huge.
Where the Knicks may struggle some with the bench squad is on the defensive end. Jared Jeffries is questionable at best because of a sore knee which has bothered him for much of the past eight weeks. Jeffries isn’t expected to play more than 15 minutes a game for the Knicks, leaving them with a huge void on the defensive end.
The worst part is that the Knicks do not have a clear decision of who will pick up the slack for Jeffries. Dan Gadzuric was signed last week because of the concerns over Jeffries, but he looks out of shape and incapable of picking up any sort of meaningful minutes right now. Josh Harrellson has shown the ability to play well, but seems to not have the full trust of Mike Woodson. Woodson will have to get creative in filling the void left behind by Jeffries.
The advantage for the benches goes to the Knicks. Novak and Smith are capable of knocking down shots in bunches and can turn a series quickly in favor for the Knicks. The Knicks bench has come a long way this season, and actually is a big reason the Knicks have made it this far, in comparison to the Heat who have yet to find consistent production from their bench unit even with the additions they have made.