Not only did the Knicks walk away with a victory, but they never once trailed and beat the defending NBA champions by 20 points, 104-84. By utilizing his team's size and employing tough defense from start to finish, head coach Mike Woodson's isolation system further proved that his team's new-look lineup is perfect for taking LeBron & Company down a few notches.
You see, the Knicks were at a disadvantage entering the game. Star forward Amar'e Stoudemire was out recovering from knee surgery, leaving New York without a good deal of size—save for center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.
On top of that, second-year guard and defensive wizard Iman Shumpert is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in last year's playoffs, ironically against the Heat.
Thus, Woodson set the lineup as follows: Raymond Felton running the point, veteran Jason Kidd at the 2, the defense-minded Ronnie Brewer at small forward, Carmelo Anthony at power forward and Chandler at center. Sure enough, this pesky group clamped down on the Heat and stayed close from start to finish, exposing the superteam's lone weakness.
As good as Miami is, it always goes into freakout mode whenever a team plays shutdown defense against them. As we saw in its 2011 NBA Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the team quickly resorts to jacking up threes in favor of high percentage shots as it seems to believe the key to winning is to just overwhelm the opposition.
This new-look lineup made sure that the Heat did anything but that, forcing 21 turnovers. Brewer pulled down five rebounds, had a steal and also scored seven points, while Felton came away with three steals.
More importantly, the Knicks beat the Heat just because they had more size. Miami opted to start Chris Bosh at center and while he has the height and length at 6'11", 235 pounds, he is a scorer first and cannot keep up with guys like Chandler on defense. Just like he did in the NBA Finals in 2011, Chandler did a fine job of limiting Bosh on offense, holding him to 12 points.
Given Miami's obsession with running on offense and making the other team give up early are things that will no longer work against the Knicks. Woodson has finally taken away the pick-and-roll obsession established by Mike D'Antoni, and instead has brought in a tough isolation game that has the team at 3-0.
What was once a surefire victory for the Heat has now become a battle, and the Knicks are ready.
Knicks fans should rejoice as the victory over Miami reestablished a rivalry that goes all the way back to the '90s, when these two teams often faced off in the postseason. Their current lineup is designed to stop teams like the Heat and once Stoudemire and Shumpert are healthy again, one can only imagine how great the Knicks will be defensively.
At that point, the Heat will look at them as anything but an easy win. The rivalry is back, and Miami had better start paying attention.
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