Posted Apr 30 2012 1:00PM
MIAMI -- Sunday marked the 11th anniversary of the New York Knicks' last playoff win.
On April 29, 2001, the Knicks won 97-89 in Toronto to gain a 2-1 lead in the first round, with current assistant general manager Allan Houston leading the way with 24 points. Since then, the Knicks have lost 11 straight postseason games (one per year), including Saturday's 100-67 defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat.
If the Knicks are going to put an end to that streak in Monday's Game 2 (7 p.m. ET, TNT) -- or at any point in this series -- they're going to have to make some offensive adjustments.
Since Mike Woodson took over as Knicks' coach in mid-March, the offense has run through Carmelo Anthony more than ever. His usage rate has risen from 30.6 percent under Mike D'Antoni to 33.1 percent under Woodson, a rate which would have ranked second in the league behind Kobe Bryant.
The Heat are an aggressive defensive team, looking to take away their opponents' first option. They did their best to deny Anthony in the post in Game 1, never allowing him to get comfortable or the Knicks to run their offense the way they wanted to.
"He's too good of a player to let him catch [the ball] where he wants to catch and operate," Shane Battier said after Game 1. "He's just too good. When you're playing defense on him, you want to make him work, try to push his catches out a little further, and take your chances."
The Heat did a terrific job defending Anthony, much better than when he scored 42 points against them two weeks earlier. But they didn't take him completely out of the game. He did get 15 shots, and while a few of them were rushed, most were in rhythm. He made just three of the 15 though, his third-worst shooting performance of the season.
"We just try to make him work, but he did miss some open looks," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday. "And that might have got him going. If he hits a couple of those, that might have changed his rhythm."
Even if Anthony hit a few more shots, his teammates weren't able to make the Heat pay for overplaying on the strong side of the floor. With 'Melo as the focus of the defense, his teammates needed to step up. In Game 1, the Knicks lacked the patience needed to move the ball and work for an open shot elsewhere.
Instead, they forced bad passes over Anthony's head. They tried to go one-on-one, forcing their way into the paint and committing offensive fouls. And they added to the turnover count with multiple moving screens.
"We have to move the ball, get in our pick-and-rolls, and everybody else has to make plays," Baron Davis said. "They're really solid on the defensive end and they're going to do the same thing every time. It's important for us to take what they give us and exploit them on that."
The Knicks worked on adjustments in practice on Sunday, and Woodson was upbeat about his team's ability to recover from Saturday's debacle and handle Miami's defense on Anthony.
"They fought him and battled him and they're making sure that the ball's directed somewhere else," Woodson said. "And that's fine too. We've got enough players on this team that can make plays."
But getting good shots against the Heat defense is easier said than done. Miami is able to play aggressively on the strong side of the floor because they have the speed and athleticism to recover and challenge weak-side shots.
"They'll make their adjustments," Spoelstra said. "They'll find ways to catch it where he needs to be effective. But our mentality and our aggressiveness, that has to stay the same."
The Knicks' mentality has to change. They can maximize their chances at getting good shots by moving the ball via the pass instead of the dribble. In Game 1, they assisted on just 11 of their 25 field goals, their lowest assist total of the season.
To maximize their chances of actually winning a game, they'll also have to get stops. That will be easier if Tyson Chandler, who missed Sunday's practice, is able to play. It will also be easier if they can put the ball in the basket, set up their defense, and slow down the Heat's transition game.
"We're still a very confident team," Anthony said Sunday. "And we felt like we didn't play our game yesterday. They did everything right, we did everything wrong yesterday. And we just want to correct that."
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