For your in-post game thoughts.
[Also check out Twitter tonight as Robert Silverman, courtesy of AMEX, meets the Knicks Legends & will be tweeting the whole night!]
Thomas B. here:
The New York Knicks (16-10) host the Miami Heat (19-8). The Heat enter on a 10 game win streak. Meanwhile the Knicks had their 8 streak snapped by Boston (and the refs) Wednesday in a game that cam down to the final possession.
Most people would expect the Heat to be very strong on offense thanks to a starting line-up that includes three high usage players. Lebron James (30.4 USG-r, 56.5 TS%) , Dwayne Wade (28.9 USG-r, 58.1 TS%) , and Chris Bosh (21.4 USG-r, 55.7 TS%) provide 23.3, 23.8, and 18.4 points/36 respectively. But I was surprised to see how strong the Heat are on defense. The Heat rank 2nd in defensive efficiency (100.4) and 1st in eFG% (46.0).
The Heat’s four factors are quite similar to the Knicks’ previous opponent the Celtics. Each team does well holding opponents to poor shooting from the floor, while well on offense. The Heat play a slower pace (90.5, 25th) much like the Celtics (91, 21st).
Given the similarities between the Celtics and the Heat, the Knicks should be confident that they can play as well against the Heat. The Knicks have performed well against teams that combine strong defense with slow pace. Against the Celtics, the Knicks’ pace of 96.4 was right at their average and much higher than what the Celtic prefer to play. The Knicks also shot well from the floor in that game (eFG% 58.6). The Knicks had similar success against the Hornets who also have a strong defense and slower pace. As with the Celtics, the Knicks controlled the pace (95.7 ) and shot well from the floor (eFG% 54.8) against the Hornets.
What to watch for 1: Knicks offensive efficiency.
One of the reasons for the Heat’s success in defensive efficiency and eFG is that they are a strong team on the defensive glass (8th). This limits chances for second chance baskets for the Knicks. As the Knicks are a poor offensive rebounding team, they won’t see many second chances so they need to get the best shot they can on each trip down the floor. One area they may be able to exploit is the Heat interior defense.
What to watch for 2: Heat Interior Defense.
If the Heat have a weakness on defense it is on the interior. No member of the team that averages more than 20 minutes per game gets even a 1 block per 36 minutes. Centers Ilgauskas and Dampier average 18.5 and 14.3 minutes per game. Furthermore, neither of them is quick enough to keep up with Amar’e Stoudemire. As such the plan should be to feed Amar’e inside often. The Heat have not faced a post play of Stoudemire’s talent level over the last 10 games, so their lack of interior defense has not become an issue. Perhaps the Knicks can make that an issue tonight.
What to watch for three: Knicks’ reserves.
It is clear that D’Antoni has shortened the rotation. The reserves are down to Douglas, Turiaf, and Williams. These three need to do a much better job of maintain the offensive flow when they enter the game. If there was one weak area for the Knicks during the Celtic game, it was the reserve unit. Every reserve turned in a negative +/- against Boston and Turiaf’s -11 was the worst of the group. Like I’ve said in many other previews, if you are going to play a reserve big man that can’t contribute on offense, why can’t that reserve be the best rebounder of the group–Randolph.
Oh well. To whomever won the tickets to the game, hope you are wearing your T-shirt and having a great time.