Saturday, May 5, 2012

New York Knicks Grades: Game 3 vs. Miami Heat

If there was a game for the Knicks to steal in this series, Game 3 was that game.  Sadly, the Knicks were still unable to overcome the Miami Heat, but stuck with them well for three quarters.  The Knicks lost 87-70, now facing an almost insurmountable 3-0 deficit in the series.

Coaching: Grade: C-

After Game 2, the Knicks looked to have worked out some kinks and were confident heading into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.  The Knicks didn’t back down and never gave up, but they just did not execute as efficiently as they could have.
Defense was not the problem for Mike Woodson and his staff, as they finally got the Knicks up for the occasion on the defensive end; evident by the 58 points through the first three quarters.  It looked more like the Knicks team Woodson led through the end of the regular season, giving up only 91.5 points per game, good for 4th in the NBA since Woodson took over.  

The problem for the Knicks was on the offensive end.  They scored only 70 points and were unable to get anything going at any point in the game.  “Offensively, we just didn’t have it,” Woodson said.  “We were so stagnant.  I’ve got to take the heat for that.  I thought with Game 2, we moved the ball from side-to-side and tonight we played one side of the ball all night long.”

One reason for this was the decision to start Steve Novak and have it backfire terribly for the Knicks.  Novak was inserted into the starting lineup with hopes that he would stretch the defense and open things up for the rest of the Knicks offense.  That never happened as the Heat were all over Novak, not allowing him any air space to shoot the ball.  This decision loomed large because of the deficiencies that Novak has on the defensive end of the court.  When he is unable to knock down 3 pointers, he becomes a huge liability because he is not making up for what he gives up on the defensive end.

Woodson and his staff took a gamble but unfortunately lost.  Look for more changes to be made in Game 4 as the Knicks look to end NBA records and building for the future.

Backcourt: Grade: B

As a Knicks fan, you really could not have asked for more out of Landry Fields and Baron Davis.  They both came prepared and ready to play in Game 3, giving the Knicks everything they had being two of the more over-matched players in the starting five.

Landry Fields was great for the Knicks in the first half, scoring a team high nine points. 
He did not miss a shot in the first half, giving the Knicks the offensive spark they desperately needed.
 Fields also played great defense on Dwayne Wade in the first half.  Wade struggled mightily outside of his 12 point 3rd quarter with Lebron James on the bench.  Fields has been widely criticized throughout the season and playoffs, but definitely came to play in Game 3 and you have to respect his effort given how inconsistent his playing time and role have been.

Baron Davis gave another gutsy outing for the Knicks tonight.  He, like Fields, looked good in the 1st half but was unable to provide the same impact in the 2nd half of the game. 

Davis ran the team as well as anyone could have given the circumstances.  It was a hard fought, dragged out game that was sloppy and tough for everyone involved.  Davis being a wily veteran was prepared for what the playoffs bring.  It was good to see Davis giving it his all even though he is visibly hurt and hobbled, which is having a major impact on his game.
 Frontcourt: Grade: D

Mike Woodson took a shot putting Steve Novak into the starting lineup and moving Carmelo Anthony to the Power Forward position.  Let’s just say the plan did not go as hoped. 

Steve Novak was shut down by a ferocious Heat defense.  They would not allow Novak to beat them from the perimeter.  Novak has only scored a total of nine points on seven shots in the series.

When Novak is not knocking down 3 pointers, it is a liability to have him on the court.  He is not a strong rebounder or defender, giving up countless second chance opportunities on defense.  He gives up too much on the defensive end to get major minutes if he is not getting the opportunities to knock down perimeter shots.

The Novak experiment didn’t work, but the bigger disappointment here has to be Carmelo Anthony.  The one game the Knicks needed him to step up and carry them, he was unable to.

Anthony scored 22 points, but needed 23 shots to get there, going 7-23 from the field and 7-9 from the foul line.  He added eight rebounds, but also had five turnovers.
 The Heat threw everything at Anthony in the game, I’m pretty sure there was even a kitchen sink on the court at once point.  They pressured him and put him into tough situations, much like Game 1 of the series.  Unlike in Game 2, Anthony was not able to get off to that hot start and have his teammates feed off of him.  With all eyes on him, Heats defense and Knick fans alike, Anthony wilted a little under the pressure with no sidekick.

Defense: Grade: B+

This grade would have easily been an A+ f basketball games lasted only three quarters.  Through three quarters, the Knicks hung with the Heat because of a fast moving, pressure filled defense. 

The charge was led by a healthy Tyson Chandler, who received his Defensive Player of the Year award prior to the game.  He looked to be fully recovered from the stomach flu, grabbing 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.  He changed numerous shots of Heat players, being the presence the Knicks had missed in the first two games of the series.
 Another boost came in the form of Jared Jeffries, who played 14 minutes which was three more than in the first two games combined.  He brought energy and defensive toughness with the second unit that was lacking in Games 1 and 2.  Jeffries was visibly still affected by the sore knee, but it was nice seeing him going out there and fighting for his teammates.

One thing that stands out is the performance of the Knicks defense on the Heat’s big 3.  Lebron James had more turnovers and fouls than made baskets in the game, as the Knicks forced him into eight turnovers and five personal fouls compared to nine made shots.  Outside of a dominant third quarter in which Wade scored 12 points, the Knicks held him in check allowing him to score only eight the rest of the game.  Chris Bosh only scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he returned from the birth of his son.

Defense was not the problem for the Knicks tonight, holding the Heat to only 87 points total, 58 through the first three quarters.  If the offense had been clicking like the defense, I firmly believe the outcome would have been different.

Bench: Grade: B+

The Knicks bench didn’t have a great night, but they are not the reason for the loss.  They came into the game and gave the Knicks everything you ask for from the bench, energy and hustle. For the game, the Knicks bench finished with a +7, compared to a -32 for the Heat bench.

J.R. Smith struggled with his shot, but did not let that effect the rest of his game.  He didn’t back down from the bigger Lebron James on defense, and when asked took on the responsibility of guarding Dwayne Wade as well.  Smith also cut down on his turnovers, having only two in the game.
Mike Bibby did a solid job backing up Davis at point guard.  He had a very unlikely eight points, and also added three rebounds and an assist.  Bibby has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks throughout the series. 

Jared Jeffries and Josh Harrellson provided the Knicks with the spark they had been looking for on the defensive end of the court and on the boards.  In 19 combined minutes, Jeffries and Harrellson combined for seven rebounds.  They also provided the Knicks with a much needed defensive presence in the middle on the defensive end. 

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