Normally, when the Heat take on the Knicks, it is an exciting fixture, especially at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks were supposed to tip off their season yesterday against the Brooklyn Nets, but following the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, were unable to do so. It was deemed too dangerous for people to get to the Barclays Center at the time, and so the Knicks will instead start their 2012-13 season against the reigning NBA champions.
The Heat are coming off a convincing victory in the season opener against the Boston Celtics. In the 4th quarter LeBron James had to leave the game due to leg cramps, and it seemed like Miami’s big lead was slipping away. Miami managed to get it done in the end, exploding for 120 points, which is by all means no easy feat when you are up against the Celtics. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were looking solid off the bench, scoring 19 and 10 points respectively.
The Knicks are banged up at the moment as Amar’e Stoudemire is sidelined and the defensive ace Iman Shumpert is still recovering from his knee injury. A lot of people questioned whether it was the right decision for the Knicks to let go of Jeremy Lin and replace him with Raymond Felton. Before being traded to the Nuggets in 2011, Felton was playing on an all-star level, but his career took a turn for the worst after that. He has looked solid during the pre-season and will be looking to regain the form he had in his previous tenure with the Knicks.
Apart from acquiring Felton, the Knicks signed a lot of veterans in free-agency, and in turn got a lot older. Kurt Thomas, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Pablo Prigioni and Rasheed Wallace were all signed in the off-season. Ronnie Brewer was also signed in order to solidify the Knicks’ defense.
Keys to the game
LeBron James left the game with leg cramps against the Celtics, but knowing him he should be just fine to play tonight, especially having enjoyed 2 days off. James scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, shooting 10-16 from the field, in a mere 29 minutes. It will be important for James to continue being that efficient as well as crashing the boards.
Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis combined for 29 points on 9-12 shooting, and provided a huge spark off the bench for the Heat. Both players have to continue carrying some of the load on offense to take pressure of the big 3.
While the Knicks improved defensively last year, the team’s biggest weapon is still their offense. With Stoudmire out, Carmelo Anthony will be carrying the scoring load, while Felton has the ability to ignite the offense by scoring himself or distributing the basketball. Miami did a very good job closing out on Steve Novak and limiting his 3-point attemps and efficiency in last year’s playoffs, and will have to continue doing the same tonight.
Despite scoring 120 points against the Celtics, Miami only had 12 fast break points, and it will be interesting to see if the team can remain as consistent offensively running their half-court sets. Mario Chalmers did a good job distributing the ball last game, dishing out 11 assists, and will need to continue on the same track.