Knicks-Heat Game 4: What to Watch For

In all likelihood, the 2011 Knicks season will come to an end this afternoon at Madison Square Garden. As we all know, the Knicks are down 3-0 against the powerhouse Miami Heat. Miami optimizes what the Knicks hope to one day become, although the Knicks sit miles away from that level. In game 4, the Knicks will try to snap their NBA-record 13 game playoff losing streak. For the Knicks, very little has gone well in this series. Carmelo Anthony has been horrible, shooting 34%, Tyson Chandler has been sick and ineffective and Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined himself by punching a fire extinguisher after game two. New York has been stagnant and ineffective on offense and unable to slow down the Heat stars on offense. It has been a complete disaster of a series for the Knicks.

In game 4, the Knicks will be playing for pride. To play devil’s advocate to my usually pessimistic self, the Knicks do have a slight chance of winning this game. Defensively they did with Miami in game 3 for the first 3 quarters before LeBron James put the game away with 10 minutes to go in the 4th. In game 2, the Knicks played Miami evenly for about 38 minutes of the game, but were killed by two separate 5 minute stretches in that game. There is a chance that Amar’e Stoudemire returns this afternoon, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I know he’s saying he wants to play and that he did in fact practice yesterday, but I just can’t see it. He posted that nasty picture of his hand yesterday, which looked like he had a baseball seam stitched onto his palm. As you can see in the picture, it is pretty clear to me that the meaty portion of his hand was in fact hanging off. I have a really difficult time he’s going to be recovered enough from almost losing a portion of his hand, to then playing a basketball game in a matter of days. Even if Stoudemire plays, he will have that hand covered up and nobody knows how effective he’ll be. We’ll see what happens today, but I would expect… well, the norm. I think the Knicks will be outplayed and they will lose. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

Here’s what to watch for: 

  • Will Carmelo struggle again? If you didn’t see my rant about the Knicks “superstar” after game 3, I invite you to check it out here. I’m not going to rip on Anthony here. I know he’s struggled, you know he’s struggled and hopefully he knows and understands that he’s struggled in the playoffs. If he doesn’t have a great game tomorrow, the Knicks have no chance of winning. It is no coincidence that the Knicks most competitive game of the series, game 2, coincided with Anthony’s best game of the series. Even in that game Anthony was not great in my opinion, but it was better than the combined 10/38 shooting performance he’s put on over the other two games. I know that he’s not the only reason the Knicks have lost this series. I understand that the Knicks haven’t defended well or shot well as a team. I get it. But Anthony is the guy who was unwilling to adjust to a coach he disliked. Anthony is the one who could have tried “harder” throughout the season and Anthony is the one who demands the ball. He is New York’s main cog and when he sucks, the Knicks suck. He has really sucked so far in this series.
  • Can New York have at least one red-hot shooting game? Coming into this series, I thought the Knicks would lose in 5 games. I thought there would be a game in which they get really hot shooting, which would then carry them to a victory. It hasn’t happened yet. The Knicks have shot a horrid 28% from downtown in the first three games. Steve Novak has been completely neutralized by both a smart Heat defense and a stagnant Knicks offense. JR Smith has not been able to get going shooting the ball. Baron Davis and Landry Fields have been… well Baron Davis and Landry Fields while trying to shoot the ball. There’s a reason the Knicks were the 9th worst three point shooting team in the league. They have the ability to have games where they get hot, but they’re wildly inconsistent. A consistently good Heat defense has destroyed the Knicks offense and they’ll probably do so again in game 4. The only way the Knicks can fix this is to 1) either get 2010 Dallas Mavericks hot from downtown or 2) try to run screens to get their shooters open. My bet is that the Knicks won’t do either and they’ll probably shoot poorly again.
  • Do the Knicks have an answer for LeBron. As much as I hate LeBron James, and trust me I really hate him, he has absolutely KILLED the Knicks in this series. He has been nothing short of fantastic on both sides of the ball. James has completely outplayed Carmelo Anthony, one of the hottest offensive players in the league during the last month of the season, and has shown why he will be named the league MVP in the coming weeks. The Knicks have no way of stopping him. Anthony is trying to defend him, but is just over matched. James is too athletic, too skilled and too conditioned for Anthony to keep up for 4 quarters. Maybe the Knicks try to trap LeBron or hedge him harder on pick and rolls, I don’t know. They’ve gotta find a way to stop him if they want to win game 4.
  • Tyson Chandler has to dominate. The Defensive Player of the Year has been nothing short of fantastic this season, but the flu has hampered him throughout this series. He was close to ineffective in the first two games of the series, in which New York gave up 204 combined points, but he was better in game 3. He grabbed 15 boards and New York played 3 quarters of really solid defense before LeBron caught fire in the 4th. In game 4, the Knicks need Chandler to be dominant. I haven’t read anything about his health potentially hampering him, so I imagine he’s pretty close to 100%. If Chandler can dominate the paint defensively against the electric slashing ability of Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, the Knicks will have a chance to win.
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