The Heat came up short in game 4, missing the chance to sweep the first round series against the New York Knicks. Tonight the Heat will attempt to finish the job, and let New York head home to enjoy summer holidays.
Game 4 had an identity of its own. Heat were atrocious offensively, missing 11 free throws and shooting 15.8% (3 of 19) from three point range. Miami also allowed New York to go on a 19-2 run in the 3rd, and were inconsistent throughout the game. Looking at the numbers it looks like Miami did a decent job defensively, but there were definitely some flaws.
First of all, you can’t let Carmelo Anthony score 41. Yes he’s going to get his looks, but as an elite defensive team you cannot allow a volume shooter to connect on more than 50% of his shots. Apart from the big performance by ‘Melo, Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds with practically one hand. Having his hand wrapped in tons of layers, he couldn’t handle the ball properly with his left hand, but outworked all of Miami’s frontcourt. He scored points off offensive rebounds and had his way in the paint.
Miami simply can’t allow that kind of performance. This is the playoffs and just because a guy is banged up doesn’t mean you go easy on him. Miami have to be a lot more physical, and make sure Amar’e doesn’t settle into a nice rhythm. When you have a chance – whack on that left hand, push him around, do anything to upset him and make him lose his focus.
The major problem was obviously Anthony. A lot of people emphasize the fact that Wade missed a game-winning shot. But if you watched the game you would know that Miami were lucky to even be in a one possession game. Shane Battier fouled Anthony on a 3-point attempt with 25 seconds left on the clock. If Anthony, who is the most clutch player in the league, had not missed 2 of his 3 free throws, Knicks would have had a 6 point lead, putting the game seemingly out of reach.
So what is the conclusion? Do not let Battier guard Anthony, especially in crunch time. Battier is still a capable defender, but you cannot argue the fact that he simply isn’t quick enough to shut down Anthony. For the first 3 games James and Battier took turns guarding Anthony, significantly reducing his productivity, but I cannot for the life of me understand why James wasn’t the one guarding Carmelo down the stretch.
As if the Knicks didn’t face enough injury problems, Baron Davis was carried out of game 4 on a stretcher after the freaky accident. Davis suffered a dislocated kneecap, two torn ligaments as well as a torn tendon. The injury will keep Davis out for at least a year. Knicks will have to rely on Mike Bibby to play big minutes.
Heat have been amazing at home this season, tieing San Antonio for the best home record of the regular season, with a record of 28-5. I highly doubt the Knicks have another amazing performance in them, especially with all the injuries. Even so, the Heat will need to come out with a higher intensity and play a lot more physical, abusing the fact that the Knicks are banged up. They will also need to step up offensively, attack the basket, and shoot a higher percentage on open looks.