Finally-Playoff pay dirt, on to Round 2.
HEAT knocked off the Knicks in good fashion for a return to righteousness in a 106-94 win tonight in beautiful White Hot Miami. And it feels lovely to get this one in the books.
To some folks’ dismay, this wasn’t the 18-20 point rout that was predicted. To the Knicks credit: Carmelo Anthony provided an All Star performance of 35 points, 8 boards, 2 steals. The Knicks as a team managed 5 players in double digits with only 13 turnovers. Defensively, they held the HEAT to under 50% shooting for the night. On all counts, this could have spelled disaster and caused a trip back to the ‘Garden and a here-we-go-again in the papers.
But at the end of the day, HEAT held-serve by getting back to basics: strong defense, great ball movement, and exclamation points on both sides of the floor by the BIG 3. And. AND…Supporting cast.
Finally (FINALLY) bench play came through in the game that mattered which was all the difference from game 4. They put the icing on the key-lime pie with 23 points, 10 boards and 7 assists collectively, and left the Knicks guessing along the way. Leading the charge was Mike Miller’s 3-3′s in the first half, wiping off the rust he otherwise showed in the past 2 games in New York. The HEAT thrive when their bench does the same, and they asserted themselves tonight, offensively and defensively with precision and poise. Speaking of supporting cast, even the fire extinguisher in the visiting locker-room played it’s part, no retaliation or related buzz following last week’s assault. True team performance by the HEAT.
Bench High Points:
Miller-Battier: Both have proven to be excellent when they are shooting well. The big difference tonight, which made all the difference, was catching their shots in rhythm. The last two games, they would get the ball off transition, stop and shoot. NOT THEIR GAME. Wednesday night they were benefactors of better ball movement, a couple of swing passes while the play developed then, wow, whatdyaknow? 3 ball corner pocket-kaboom; and a combined effort of 5-9 from beyond the arc. A trend to watch for in future games as the playoffs progress.
Joel Anthony-4 Points, 5 Rebounds: Oftentimes the unsung hero of the squad, but what he does is invaluable. Teams can’t put him on the line, because he makes the free throws (tonight; 2-2). He blocks shots and gets needed rebounds that act as the accelerant to HEAT transition basketball. He plays such quality minutes, and in a statement-game like tonight showed everyone when he’s in the game-watch out.
And of course, the Big 3 also played tonight, and played their brand of domination resulting in 29-19-19 scoring from the James-Wade-Bosh tandem. LeBron’s numbers alone echoed his average and support his MVP vote (29 points, 8 boards, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and a partridge-in-a-pear-tree) with the other pieces playing excellent ball, expecially Chris Bosh with critical shots, dunks, rebounds and blocks throughout. Tremendous effort.
Out and out, Knicks got the business-end of the White Hot stick tonight, which by all counts was a game overdue. No love lost, ‘Melo kept the game within 11 and interesting, but ultimately they proved to not be the Knicks of old. They have a lot more questions to figure out than what the HEAT have, and wish them all the best-til next year (at least until they come around again Playoff-Time, then it’s business-end-of-the-stick repeated!).
All eyes now on the prize, for now it’s Game 1 vs. Pacers at home Sunday. While it might not have the sexy buildup as the Knicks round 1, the HEAT do have a score to settle against a team they hold a 2-4 series record in the post season all-time. Work still to be done on the road to the Finals, time to punch in.