If you were doubting whether anyone in the Eastern conference can compete with the Miami Heat with Derrick Rose out for Chicago, it’s time to open your eyes.
There is a new sheriff in town. It’s the New York Knicks.
The Knicks, always in the news whether good or bad, made their city forget about the damage laid by Hurricane Sandy for just one night in a 104-84 opening night victory at Madison Square Garden over the reigning champions.
On Thursday night, they went into South Beach where the Heat hadn’t lost this year and laid another beating over LeBron James and company by a score of 112-92.
It was the most lopsided loss of Miami’s Big Three Era in which all three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were playing.
LeBron scored 31 and came within an assist from his second straight triple double. Bosh and Wade combined to shoot six of 25 and scored 25.
They did this without Carmelo Anthony, who suffered a finger laceration and decided to play it safe.
No problem, because the Knicks were able to bury the Heat in a three-pointer barrage led by Raymond Felton (27 points, 7 assists, 6 of 10 shooting threes), Steve Novak (18 points, 4 of 9 from three), along with killer defense led by Jason Kidd (+31), and Tyson Chandler (+23, 9 rebounds).
After being tied at 53 at halftime, the Knicks grabbed a 10 point lead after the third and stepped on Miami’s throats in the fourth, holding them to just 12 points in the final period.
In this blowout victory, the Knicks have proven that they are deep, they are for real and that Miami is not invincible. The Heat have company in the East and it is not the Bulls, it’s not the Celtics, it’s not the 76ers, it’s not the Pacers, it’s not even the Brooklyn Nets.
It is the New York Knicks.
Miami has been exposed. They have zero size presence, which will be a problem against teams like both LA teams, Memphis, San Antonio, and New York. Wade looks banged up and clearly in decline.
Still, any team with LeBron James is not a team to be under-estimated. He is unquestionably the best player on the planet, but looked like the only player on the Heat who looked like he cared during this embarrassment. James is going to be a favorite for MVP yet again because he will carry his team as always.
Still, they may have met their match in the New York Knicks, and these Knicks are not going away anytime soon.
First off, their formula to their success is simple: A commitment to playing defense as well as sharing the basketball to create and knock down shots. The Knicks are 3rd in the NBA in three-point shooting as well as the best at preventing turnovers (while being 4th at creating them).
Overall, the Knicks have the 4th best offense in the NBA, while being without Amar’e Stoudemire, and have the 8th best defense in the league, without Iman Shumpert and Marcus Camby.
Most of this has been led by Carmelo Anthony, who has created a new commitment to playing defense as well as playing as a beast offensively at power, scoring 26.4 points per game and shooting under 44% from three. His normal shooting and rebounding numbers are on line with his career norms.
Many of the Knicks offseason moves have so far been huge. Jason Kidd has played some excellent ball thanks to sharing the ball-handling duties with Raymond Felton, who clearly is motivated after returning to New York.
Ronnie Brewer has played very well coming over from Chicago, and has filled the perimeter defensive role that they lost in Iman Shumpert.
The Knicks also have plenty of size to match almost anyone. Tyson Chandler has been his usual defensive anchor, and the addition of Rasheed Wallace has brought back his hard defensive play. Also keep in mind the Knicks are still missing the rebounding presence of Marcus Camby and the inside scoring of Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Knicks have the 9th highest scoring bench in the NBA, and this can improve once all three come back.
Don’t think the Knicks have played an easy schedule easier. They already beat both Miami and Philadelphia twice, scored some huge comeback wins in San Antonio and Charlotte. They’ve already played 11 road games, going 7-4 and are perfect at home.
The only question remains is if Stoudemire can fit well with this red-hot roster and re-establish himself as one of the elite PFs in the league. Also have to wonder if the rebounding (currently third worst in the league) can improve to keep the team in the game whenever shots do not fall.
Personally, I think the Knicks need to take it easy with both Amar’e and Shumpert. Have them come off the bench at first and slowly work them back into the rotation until they are finally ready to start and play big time minutes soon.
But, if they can, they will officially establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the NBA and legitimate contenders for the NBA title, or at least a tough match up for the Miami Heat.
Nobody is questioning the Knicks’ talent. They can do a lot of things and do it well. Fitting Amar’e together with Melo will be key and they will be big time results if this can happen.
But even if not, they have already proven that they can hang with the Miami Heat, because they will have a lopsided advantage in size and can knock down shots in bunches as well as defend well.
So if these two teams end up meeting in the playoffs again, don’t expect such a rout of a series like last year. Both teams are much different, but the Knicks have improved a lot, and they are indeed for real.