Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New York Knicks Grades: Game 2 of Series vs Miami Heat

Game 2 was much better for the Knicks, but the end result was still the same.  The Knicks lost to the Heat 104-94, falling down 2-0 to the Heat in the series. 

Coaching: Grade: B
 The Knicks were not able to pick up the win in game 2, but the game plan was definitely better this time around.  The necessary changes were made on the offensive end by Mike Woodson and his staff.  The offense is most successful when it is ran through Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks struggled to get him into position to make plays in game 1.  In game 2, Woodson tweaked the offensive sets.

Carmelo Anthony was smothered by Lebron James and company on his post ups in game 1.  The Heat defense made it nearly impossible for Anthony to receive passes and make plays because they fronted him and then sent a double team.  This frustrated Anthony and the Knicks, evident from the 3-15 shooting and blowout victory for the Heat.

In Game 2, the Knicks put Anthony in better positions to succeed.  Woodson tweaked the offense by having Anthony start more at the top of the key instead of on one side the court.  This opened up the floor making for a better free-flowing offense.  It also enabled Baron Davis, J.R. Smith and Mike Bibby to run the patented pick-and-roll game, making for easy opportunities around the basket. 

The reason this grade is not higher is because the Knicks still have not made up a game plan to slow down the Heat.  After having a top 5 defense in the regular season, the Knicks have been embarrassed in two games by the Heat, giving up over 100 points in both contests. 

One reason for this letdown has been because of the health concerns the Knicks have been facing.  Tyson Chandler has been fighting the flu, and Jared Jeffries is not 100%, unable to play more than a few minutes per game.  Losing Iman Shumpert in Game 1 will also hurt the Knicks defense, but a good game plan put in would help.

Backcourt: Grade: B-

Baron Davis gave the Knicks a valiant effort in Game 2.  Davis, battling his newest injury to his back, soldiered on and gave the Knicks as much as they could have asked for.  He is on a minute limit, but played nearly the whole second half, 21 minutes, after only playing six minutes in the first half.  Davis scored 12 points and added six assists.  The Knicks could not have asked for a better performance from Davis who is visibly hindered by his nagging injuries.

Davis’ backcourt mate, Landry Fields, did not fair as well.  Fields only played 18 minutes, most of which seemed to be wasted.  Fields has lost all confidence in his jump shot and is a liability on the offensive end.  Passing the ball to him is a waste of time, as he will just take a dribble or two and pass it back out; going nowhere fast.
Fields also has become a liability on the defensive end, as Dwayne Wade did whatever he wanted to Fields on offense.  He scored from all over the court and was virtually unstoppable.  Fields will need to step up his performance with the Knicks facing so many injury concerns.  Fields is solely responsible for this grade being so low after such a performance from Davis.

Frontcourt: Grade: B+

Unlike in Game 1, Carmelo Anthony got off to a scorching start this time around.  He ended up scoring 30 points, adding nine rebounds.  He came ready and prepared to play this time around.  His confidence was sky high and he attacked the Heat defense from all different angles. 

For the Knicks to have any chance of winning games, they will need performances like this from Anthony the remainder of the series.  They would also like to have efficient games from Amar’e Stoudemire, like he had in Game 2.  Stoudemire went for 18 points and seven rebounds, much more involved than Game 1. 

Sadly, Stoudemire will most likely not have that opportunity.  He punched the glass container that holds the fire extinguisher in the Heat locker room, getting a very ugly laceration.  Medical attention was needed as sources say half of Stoudemire’s hand was ‘hanging off’.  He will miss Game 3 and does not seem likely to play the remainder of the series after receiving 15 stitches in his hand.
Defense: Grade: C-

The Knicks once again gave up 100 points, 104 to be exact, which will not be acceptable when trying to beat the Heat.   

The only positive for the Knicks on defense was the improved play of Tyson Chandler.  He was much more active in Game 2, aggressively going after rebounds and playing a lot more like his old self.  He grabbed seven rebounds, and looked like he was more engaged.  His energy level was also much higher, visibly looking more engaged and energetic; closer to the normal level up play Chandler is accustomed to.

Chandler says he should be fine by Game 3.  It would be a huge boost to a Knicks team to have Chandler playing at full health.  With Jared Jeffries being limited and Iman Shumpert being lost for up to 8 months, the Knicks are without a lot of their defensive stoppers.
Another thing that may help the Knicks on defense is Amar’e Stoudemire not playing.  Stoudemire has been atrocious on defense on all season and was not getting any better in the series against the Heat.  Chris Bosh was taking advantage of Stoudemire every time they lined up against each other.  The Knicks defense has been better all season while Stoudemire sat on the bench, so hopefully the trend continues if Stoudemire isn’t going to be playing. 

Bench: Grade: B-

The bench was better than bad, but worse than good in Game 2 against the Heat.  They did what they regularly do, providing hustle and energy.  But they also had some of their weakness exposed, one of which being defense without Jared Jeffries.
J.R. Smith brought the same intensity and aggressiveness he did in Game 1, showing just how tough he is.  Smith did not back down from Lebron James or Dwayne Wade, taking on whatever Mike Woodson placed in front of him.  Smith also provided a nice punch in the scoring column, going for 13 points on 6-11 shooting.  He was the only Knicks outside of Jared Jeffries limited minutes, to finish with a positive +/-. Smith has been the most consistent and best player for the Knicks in the first two games in my opinion.

Mike Bibby gave the Knicks good minutes again off the bench.  The Knicks did not suffer a letdown with Bibby running the team.  He actually got big minutes in the first half, playing 18 of his 21 minutes in the first half, as Mike Woodson rode the hot hand.  Bibby has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks in the playoffs.

Novak is the one who was exposed the most in Game 2.  Novak was caught multiple times in the wrong position on defense, allowing for wide open 3 point attempts for the likes of Shane Battier and Mike Miller.  If Novak is not knocking down 3 pointers, he has very little reason to be on the court most of the time.  It was encouraging to see Novak grab five rebounds though.  But he will need to step up the effort on the defensive end as well, as Novak will see a lot of playing time with all the injuries he Knicks have and his prowess he has of knocking down perimeter jump shots. 

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