NBA Playoffs 2012: 5 Reasons Why the Knicks Can Bounce Back in This Series
After the shellacking we saw on Saturday afternoon, few are giving the New York Knickerbockers much of a chance this series. The Miami Heat defense made the Knicks offense look pedestrian—they spent a good deal of the game playing hot potato with one another before taking a rushed jump shot from 20 feet away.
So what hope do they have going forward? Here are five things that Knicks fans have to look forward to as this series continues Monday night.
1. "Road Warriors?" Not Quite.
If there's anything Miami sports fans are known for, it's their lack of appreciation for greatness. The team they witnessed play on Saturday might be one of the best ever, but many of them were content to stop cheering mid-way through the third quarter, the point where almost anyone watching was forced to admit that it was over.
New York fans are different—they are absolutely starving for a championship, and seeing the atmosphere in the Garden these days has been exceptionally electric. None of Miami's "big three" has ever had the pleasure of participating in a playoff game at the Garden, and if history tells us anything, LeBron James isn't the best at dealing with the kind of intense pressure a game like this in New York City will supply.
On top of that, the Knicks have been 22-11 at home this year (compared to a paltry 14-19 on the road). If the Knicks can feed off this crowd the way they have at certain times this year, they'll be a force to be reckoned with.
2. Paging Carmelo Anthony
During Game 1, we witnessed what was, by almost any account, a putrid performance by Carmelo Anthony. His jumper was flat. He looked to distribute the ball at all the wrong times. He looked undeniably spent on defense. For everything 'Melo has done right these last two weeks, he couldn't do anything right on Saturday.
So why is this good news? Well, it makes sense that the result was a rout by the Heat. The Knicks' best player wasn't playing anywhere near his potential. And regardless of whether it had anything to do with his teammates, or possibly just fatigue, he's bound to get much better as the series continues.
Carmelo is the kind of player that plays better as he understands his opponent better. Historically, he's been more effective against teams (or other players) that he's faced more often. It's also likely that his defense on LeBron will improve as well.
That being said, it's impossible to remove blame entirely from his performance in Game 1. And should also be noted that part of the reason Anthony was so ineffective was because of LeBron's defense. But good players don't let games like this slow them down, and I fully expect that Anthony will be back in business on Monday.
3. They Die by the Three
About mid-way through January, the Knicks looked as though they were wallowing in self-pity. They just couldn't stop feeling bad for themselves, and had no answer to rescue themselves from this awful rut. But then, three things happened: (1) Jeremy Lin popped up out of nowhere; (2) Steve Novak emerged as one of the league's most accurate three point shooters; and (3) they were somehow able to rescue J.R. Smith from the deepest depths of China.
While the hysteria surrounding Lin was put to bed earlier this season, Novak and Smith still remain as integral components to success for the Knicks. They go as these two players go, and without their support from beyond the arc, the Knicks won't be able to generate enough points to keep up with Miami.
The Knicks are 16-7 when Novak nets three or more three-pointers. These two are, undeniably, the difference-makers in that offense. We expect Melo to be good, but if these two are good as well, the team is truly something special.
In Game 1, the duo only scored five three-pointers. You have to expect that eventually, they will go off for 10 or more, swinging at least one (if not more) of these games in the Knicks' favor.
4. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
As far as classic "Jekyll and Hyde" seasons go, the 2011-2012 Knicks were right up there with the best of them. They looked unstoppable some nights, and utterly pathetic during others. But if one were to single out one statistic that correlated best with their successes and mishaps is turnovers. The more turnovers the Knicks have (or any team, for that matter), the harder it is for their already lacking defense to compensate.
Against Miami, this is doubly the case. The Knicks cannot afford to give up double-digit turnovers in a game, let alone the second quarter. Minutes 12 to 24 of Game 1 was classic inexperience from a team that has a fair share of veterans, but just as many newcomers.
Of all the culprits, no one was worse than Baron Davis, the once-lauded point guard who has, as of late, been slowed tremendously by a host of injuries. Davis was guilty of committing one of the gravest sins for point guards on multiple occasions: On two separate occasions, he left his feet without knowing where he was going to send the ball. The result, both times, was an offensive foul.
Davis should know better, especially given his postseason experience. Miscues like this that result in turnovers, which are what kill the Knicks on some nights. But there is an upside: Since Woodson has taken over the reins of head coach, the Knicks have never had this many turnovers in a single game.
And in all likelihood, they never will again (at least not during this series). Let's hope that's the case, at least, for the sake of Woodson's blood pressure.
5. You Gotta Believe
If Spike Lee has taught us anything, it's that the Knicks have to believe. And luckily, the do. From head coach to players, there isn't a single body on this squad that doesn't think they can make a run at the championship. Before the game, Woodson was reported as saying to his team, "Getting to the championship is a process." Their hopes for this season extend far beyond round one, and therefore far beyond the Miami Heat.
The Knicks have been questioned multiplied times year for many different things, but their resiliency has always been remarkable. When you least expect them to put together a run, they muster up their strength and turn in a herculean effort. They are 6-0 under Woodson following losses, and poised to improve that record once again.
They consistently provide critics with a great deal of fodder one day, and then somehow make up for it the next. Through all this, they have never lost sight of their goal, and when all else fails, belief can be a powerful force. Maybe even more powerful than LeBron James.