HEAT 113 - Knicks 91 Recap

December 17 – For some, this game was meant to renew the grind-it-out Miami HEAT-New York Knicks rivalry of the late 1990’s. After all, the Knicks had just had a streak of eight consecutive wins ended two days before, and the HEAT were still going strong at 10 straight as they headed up to Madison Square Garden. Finally, both teams were ready to rekindle the old fame.

So much for that.

For one half, this was pure up-and-down basketball, existing far outside the realm of necessary analysis. The Knicks were powered by Danilo Gallinari’s outside shooting and their ability to catch Miami off guard with back cuts and quick transition strikes. The HEAT had Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James operating on most cylinders, with James creating space for, and hitting, every sort of jumper he wanted.

It was all offense, which was just fine for the Knicks, hovering around 50 percent shooting to that point, with the game tied going into the break.

For the HEAT, well, all offense isn’t exactly part of their manifesto. They held the Knicks to 34 points in the second half, 17 in each quarter, and just 91 points in a 99 possession game, as Miami won, 113-91, to extend their winning streak to eleven.

“We talked about it at halftime,” Dwyane Wade said. “We knew that we were giving up too many easy points. We knew that we had to stick to our defensive principles.”

“We just try to wear teams down. In the third quarter we were able to do that again,” James said.

Taking advantage of the wide passing and driving lanes afforded them by one of the league’s least efficient defenses, Wade, Bosh and James accounted for a large percentage of Miami’s 46 points in the paint, shooting 53 percent as they combined for 84 points on 64 shots, with James turning in a triple double with 32 points, 11 assists and ten boards. By the middle of the fourth quarter, when the HEAT were up by more than 15, the explosive Knicks were nearing the final stretch for a meaningful run, but Miami’s trio had so worn down New York’s defenses, earning foul after dunk after open look, there was never so much of a whiff as a comeback.

Largely because the HEAT took away any tools the Knicks would have been comfortable with using to make a run.

“We just wanted to continue to stay in our system, provide support and help for each other,” Bosh said. “We wanted to make them finish over us and give them one shot. We kind of had a couple of setbacks in the first half, and that got them off to a run a little bit, but we corrected it.”

And for that, they can thank Joel Anthony.

As the second-best team in the league at closing out on shooters, allowing 34 percent shooting and .86 points per possession on spot-up opportunities, the HEAT effectively nullified whatever second-half ball movement the Knicks could muster without overcompensating and opening holes in the paint. But New York needed that ball movement because Anthony put an end to the one thing that had been automatic for the Knicks for almost three weeks: Amar’e Stoudemire isolating on the elbow.

A good enough athlete to stick with Stoudemire (11-of-28 shooting) both laterally and vertically, Anthony handcuffed himself to his mark, pushing his offense further and further away from the rim. With nothing else working for the Knicks, this made Stoudemire even more determined to score. And as he forced things against Anthony, the HEAT trapped him when he put his head down. The offense sputtered, and on the other end, James, Wade and Bosh (with Arroyo adding three triples), never let up.

And with an eleven-game win streak in hand a nearly a plus-10 point differential for the season, there aren’t many indicators they plan on letting up any time soon.