The 104-84 dominant victory over the Miami Heat by the New York Knicks was undoubtedly a sweet one. It had the underdog factor, it had the rivalry factor, it was at home and it even had the we-just-got-hit-by-a-hurricane factor.
You couldn't ask for a better opening to the season.
But before we start talking about the Knicks has true title contenders, let us put this game in perspective. This was one game, and a closer look shows several things to be concerned about.
Lack of Sustainability
The least sustainable mode of victory in the NBA is 3-point shooting. Teams that live and die by it are streaky at best. The Knicks made 19 3-pointers Friday night, garnering 36 more points off the shot than the Heat.
Without a doubt, the Knicks will return back to a normal 3-point shooting percentage sometime soon. Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Novak and J.R. Smith were all 50 percent or better from behind the arc. None of them—except perhaps Novak—can maintain that clip.
That is a recipe for victory, no doubt, but not a recipe for long-term success in the NBA.
Has Carmelo Changed?
In theory, this is to be the season Carmelo Anthony transforms from an individual player to a team player. As Melo himself said:
We just can’t rely on myself and J.R. to do all of the scoring. I think now we have guys, the way we’ve been playing in preseason, with scoring coming from everywhere. Guys have been contributing. We’re definitely a deep team. As far as scoring goes, I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that.
For the most part, Knicks fans would love to see a Carmelo who passes, plays efficiently and makes the best use of his talents. On Friday, we saw a Carmelo who was scoring points, but he did not look so different from the 2011 version.
Carmelo was 6-20 (30 percent) on two-point field goal attempts on Friday. He still scored 30 points, so it is hard to call that a bad day. But how is that a new Carmelo? We still saw a lot of jump shots, wasting of the shot clock and failure to create easy shots for himself.
Perhaps Melo and his teammates will continue to hit threes at an obscene rate. If not, that low two-point shooting percentage and reliance on long jump shots is going to become a problem.
Amar'e: Help or Hindrance?
An optimist could say that the Knicks will get even better. They will get Amar'e back, so the team will improve. As head coach Mike Woodson put it:
Amar’e is a big piece of the puzzle, make no mistake about that. He brings offense and he brings rebounding. He brings a number of things to our ball club. So we’re going to miss him. But until he gets back, it gives other guys an opportunity to step up and play. That’s why I am going to be pushing guys.
Hopefully Amar'e will come back and the result will be a stronger team. However, there are plenty of reasons to think the opposite. More players does not always mean a better team when the fit is wrong.
Amar'e has spent his career in a pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop type of offense, and he thrives on ball movement. Carmelo thrives in the half-court isolation game, and neither of them plays off the other well at all.
Will Amar'e Stoudemire's return help the Knicks?
The Knicks had winning streaks last season when Carmelo was injured and also when Carmelo was dominating the ball and Amar'e was uninvolved. Yet they had no such success with both stars on the court at the same time.
Nevertheless, a win is a win. The Knicks are 1-0 and have improved since Mike Woodson first became the coach in the middle of the 2011-12 season. Perhaps Carmelo will change his ways and Amar'e will find a way to fit. Perhaps those 17 points from Steve Novak will not look like such a fluke down the road.
The Knicks next host the Philadelphia 76ers, a winnable game. These things will become more clear as the season unfolds. Just remember to keep a little perspective.