Thursday, May 10, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat Series Roundup

NBA Playoffs Series Review: 
Miami Heat beat New York Knicks 4-1

The Knicks came into the playoffs riding a hot streak, but were unable to continue their great play against a better Miami Heat team.  Injuries were a concern heading into the post-season for the Knicks and it got worse throughout the series.  The Knicks were unable to build any continuity in this series, starting a different lineup basically every game with a different Knick going down every game or another player being deemed unable to play for the series.  Even with all those problems and knowing what they were up against, the players never gave up; even if at times the execution, aggressiveness and intensity were not at levels they needed to be at.
 Injuries doomed the Knicks from the beginning.  Heading into the playoffs, players like Jared Jeffries and Baron Davis were already nursing nagging injuries.  They gave everything they could, but in the end it was not enough.  It was also not the end of the injuries for the Knicks.  Tyson Chandler developed the stomach flu before Game 1, greatly impacting his performance throughout the series. Game 1 we saw promising rookie Iman Shumpert tear his ACL and lateral meniscus; he is looking at an 8 month rehab.  Game 4 Baron Davis suffered a horrific knee injury, tearing his ACL and MLC in addition to partially tearing his patella.  His career is potentially over, facing a 12 month rehab. Let’s also not forget Amar’e Stoudemire hitting his hand on a fire extinguisher case resulting in a laceration on his left hand that required 15 stitches.  He missed Game 3 because of the injury and is lucky to only miss that as doctors told Stoudemire that he was a millimeter away from hitting a nerve, which would have ended his basketball career on the spot.  These injuries and constant changing of the team was just too much for the Knicks to overcome.
 The Heat just seemed more prepared than the Knicks.  Right from the start of the series, it was evident that the Heat and their coaching staff had made the necessary adjustments.  They changed their defensive approach against the Knicks, specifically, Carmelo Anthony.  The Heat decided to front Anthony, making it difficult for the Knick guards to get Anthony the ball in good spots on the court.  If Anthony did end up with the ball, he was far away from the basket and then faced double and triple teams, forcing him into tough situations.  Mike Woodson and the Knicks were able to figure it out for spurts, but were unable to overcome the Heat as they just seemed to be one step ahead of the Knicks the whole series. 

Another thing that stood out was the play of Steve Novak.  He became a folk hero in New York, knocking down 3 pointer after 3 pointer after being inserted into the rotation.  But his disappearing act in the playoffs was alarming.  Novak managed to only get off nine shots in the five game series.  A lot of this can be credited to the Heat’s stifling defense but it is still worth noting that he got up 17 shots in three regular season games against the Heat.  This was a disappointment for the Knicks, as the Heat were one of the worst teams in the NBA at defending the 3 point shot.  It was an area the Knicks should have thrived in, but instead they floundered; another example of the Heat coaching staff preparing their team better than Mike Woodson and his Knicks staff.  The front office will have a difficult decision to make with Novak this off-season.
The bench had been a strong point for the Knicks all season but did not have the impact in the series as hoped.  Novak, as mentioned earlier, was neutralized by a swarming Heat defense.  J.R. Smith was a gamer, but struggled mightily from the field.  Smith shot 24-76 from the field, good for 31.6% and an even more disappointing 5-28 from 3 point range, good for 17.9%.  One positive for Smith though was, outside of Carmelo Anthony, he was the only player on the Knicks who was able to get his own shot.  They did not fall as often as you’d hope, but he was aggressive and never backed down from tough match-ups with Lebron James and Dwayne Wade.  Smith has said in the past that he will test the free agent market this season, but as a Knicks fan I really hope he is back.  Sure he is immature at times, but he brings it every game and with a little guidance would become an outstanding player.

The defense was not up to the level it needed to be for the Knicks to pull off an upset.  Injuries really set the Knicks back from the beginning of the series.  Jared Jeffries was limited throughout because of a sore knee he was unable to overcome from the regular season.  Jeffries anchored the defense on the 2nd unit and without him they struggled to keep the Heat at bay.  Losing Iman Shumpert in Game 1 was a huge blow as well. Shumpert is quickly becoming one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, defending the opposing teams’ best players on a nightly basis.  Tyson Chandler being under the weather was the biggest blow.  Since coming over as a free agent this past off-season, Chandler has changed the culture around New York.  He turned the Knicks from a laughing stock on defense the past few seasons into a top 5 defensive team this season.  Without him manning the middle and setting the tone from the beginning of the series, the Knicks were doomed.
In the playoffs the stars are supposed to shine their brightest.  For the Knicks they had the unfortunate draw of having to face three of them in Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.  Those three outshined the Knicks star duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.  Outside of a spirited Game 4 performance in which Anthony and Stoudemire combined for 61 points and 16 rebounds, the rest of the series was pretty much lackluster.  Stoudemire struggled with foul trouble and inconsistency, finally blowing up after Game 2 when he suffered the laceration on his hand.  Anthony had 3 big scoring outputs, but they were not the more efficient outings, taking a high number of shots to reach those totals. Anthony was unable to carry the Knicks against a superior Heat squad alone.
 So ends the roller coaster Knicks season.  This season was like a roller coaster that was really hyped up, but ended up falling short of expectations.  There were low points and high points throughout the season.  I am happy as a Knicks fan that they were able to overcome so many distractions throughout the season to make the playoffs, just hoped for a better performance.  The Knicks did end their 13 game playoff losing streak which is something to build off of for next year.

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