NBA Playoffs 2012: Knicks Must Get out to Early Lead, Keys to Winning Game 1

Matt DienstagContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 15: (L) Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks drives against (R) LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on April 15, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

For the Knicks to have a chance in this series, they are going to have to put the pressure on the Miami Heat early.

Since the Woodson era began, the Knicks have done a great job at coming out of the gate with plenty of energy. In the D'Antoni era, it was customary for the Knicks to come out flat and play catch-up the entire game.

The Miami Heat will crush the New York Knicks if they let this happen.

For the Knicks to compete in this series, they must be the team that sets the tone and force the Heat to play their game.

Winning Game 1 would be a huge advantage to the Knicks. By doing so, the Knicks can get in LeBron James' head, and history will tell you that once the pressure is on LeBron, he doesn't play at the level he is capable of.

Here are a few keys to winning Game 1.


Attack the Paint Early

For the Knicks to assure themselves at getting an early lead, they need to take the most effective shots. The Heat are weak in the middle, especially compared to the Knicks' bigs.

If the Knicks can feature Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire early, it will open up the perimeter and allow the Knicks' bigs to kick out shots for three.

The Knicks really need Stoudemire to be effective in the paint. If he is converting on attempts, then he is going to draw double teams that will play to the Knicks advantage.

Stoudemire needs bring the offensive explosion Knicks' fans are used to seeing.
Stoudemire needs bring the offensive explosion Knicks' fans are used to seeing.Drew Hallowell/Getty Images


Put Melo' On the Block

Mike Woodson was able to get the best out of Carmelo Anthony by changing his positioning on the offensive end. D'Antoni was placing Anthony behind the three-point mark in the half-court offense, which was pushing him away from the basket.

Carmelo plays his best game when he starts from the elbow. He starts inside and slowly moves his way toward the perimeter game. But he needs to start from a spot that he is most efficient from.

For Carmelo to establish himself early, he needs to take high-percentage shots. By placing him on the block and allowing him back down his defender, Anthony has shown ability in taking over games from there.

Anthony is the Knicks' true superstar, they need 30-plus points from him if they are going to win. By putting him in position to score efficiently, the Knicks will able to rally around his successful production.


Find Ways to Get Novak and Smith Open Looks

The Miami Heat are an excellent lateral defensive team, and do a great job of closing out perimeter shooters.

The Knicks need J.R. Smith and Steve Novak to get open looks in order to for them to be effective.

The Knicks can use all of the discount double-checks they can get out of Steve Novak.
The Knicks can use all of the discount double-checks they can get out of Steve Novak.

Both players are used as offensive reinforcements, and usually don't enter the game until the second quarter.

The offense needs to be constantly up-screening and down-screening to create looks for their perimeter shooters. Creating space is going to be difficult so the Knicks cannot afford to be lazy on offense.


Limit the turnovers

The Heat want to play a fast-paced game. The Knicks can't let them. They feed off turnovers and turn them into fast-break opportunities.

will push the tempo when needed and has done a better job as of late in limiting his wildness when he's flying down the court.

If the guards can keep the game under control, it will force Miami to create their own offense instead of feeding off the Knicks' turnovers.


Defense, Defense, Defense.

Every play is critical, the Knicks cannot be lackadaisical on defense. Tyson Chandler has stressed the importance of defensive intensity for the playoffs to his team and the Knicks need to respond.

Amar'e Stoudemire needs to move his feet on defense. Far too often he stands around as he lets ball handlers blow right by him. He needs to keep his man in front to limit easy baskets for the Heat.

If the Knicks can hold Miami between 85-90 points, they can take Game 1 and steal home-court advantage from the Heat.