2012 NBA Playoffs: JR Smith and Steve Novak Are Keys to a Knicks Upset over Heat

Sam QuinnContributor IIIApril 30, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17:  J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks drives against Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on April 17, 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

I hate saying this, partially because of how much I despise the Miami Heat and partially because of how much I thought the New York Knicks could beat them before the series started. 

But honestly, the Heat are just a better team. If the Knicks play them conventionally, they will lose. It's hard to swallow, but there is simply too much going against them. 

Carmelo Anthony obviously has to be fantastic for the Knicks to have any hopes of winning, and the same goes for Amar'e Stoudemire, but there has to be something more. The Knicks need an ace in the hole.

That ace is the three-point shot.

Ironically, after firing Mike D'antoni, the Knicks have to go back to his offensive staple. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak have to be heavily utilized in the offense.

Yes, I know Smith was terrible on Saturday. He's capable of shooting you out of a game on any given day. However, he's also capable of winning you games by himself. The old adage is that when you live by the three you die by the three, but the Knicks have already died by the three. It's time to live by it. 

Novak is a bit more of a simple case. When you give him the ball he makes shots. He was the best in the NBA this year at doing just that. What he also does is create mismatches. His size (very uncommon for a shooter) can draw big men away from the hoop. Suddenly, it becomes much easier for Stoudemire and Anthony to score down low.

Three-pointers are usually the genesis of any upset. Golden State used them to stun Dallas in 2007, and we see it happen every year in the NCAA tournament. When you don't have as much raw talent, you have to improvise and find something you can do that your opponent can't.

I'm not saying the Heat can't shoot threes, but the Knicks certainly can. Novak and Smith need to play big minutes in Game 2. The Heat need to be aware that one wrong rotation, one sag to the basket on a drive—really, any mistake—will result in three easy points for the Knicks. 

I originally thought the Knicks could play isolation and defensive ball against the Heat, but we saw that fail miserably in Game 1. With Iman Shumpert out, the Knicks can't hope to play defensive games against Miami. 

The Knicks are desperate. They were just humiliated in Game 1. They need to come out with a new strategy if they hope to make this a series. That new strategy should be an emphasis on the three-point shot.