This is pretty much the season for the Knicks. If they lose tonight, it is a forgone conclusion that they’ll be going home. If they find a way to win, they still have a chance, albeit small, to beat Miami in this series. The Knicks must put game 1 behind them. As depressing as that game was, it still counts as only one victory for Miami. I won’t go as far as to say the Knicks will win tonight, but I think they’ll at least show up. I don’t know what happened to them in game 1. They seemed to have left their effort and execution back in New York. Tonight is a new night. I expect the Knicks to come out fired up. Again, will they win? I doubt it. Will they give a better effort? I think so.
Here is what to watch for:
- Injury news. Tyson Chandler will play, despite his flu. Iman Shumpert is out 6-8 months with both a torn ACL. Landry Fields will start in Shumpert’s absence.
- Fields has to step up tonight. The second year Knick will have the monumental task of guarding Dwayne Wade, at least early in the game. I imagine we’ll see a good amount of JR Smith tonight (yikes!), but Fields will see 15-20 minutes. He’s a solid defender, but that isn’t good enough against a superstar like Wade. Fields has to defend at an elite level tonight. Even if he’s beaten off drives or screens, he must give full effort to disrupt Wade’s rhythm. Most importantly, Fields must keep up his confidence. Wade is arguably the 3rd best shooting guard of all time. He’s going to make baskets. If Wade cooks Fields early, I think it is imperative for Fields to keep his confidence. He can’t put his head down and let his effort slide or else Wade may score 50. Fields’ performance may have a huge impact on tonights game.
- How will Chandler play? There is only one Michael Jordan. Not everyone can play at a high level with the flu, and Chandler is no different. I applaud his effort and heart and I hope he has a great game tonight. I wouldn’t bet on it. He was pretty awful in game 1 and I could see him playing better tonight. However, I don’t expect him to play at the level we’ve been accustomed to seeing. It makes me sad to see him hampered with this sickness (DAMN YOU, TONEY DOUGLAS!) because I think he’s the heart and soul of this Knicks team. Without his usual, great impact, the Knicks just look like a different team. I hope Tyson can put it together and make an impact tonight, but I’m very skeptical.
- The Knicks have no margin for error tonight. They can’t miss open shots. They can’t turn the ball over. They can’t have slow defensive rotations. If they do these things, they will lose. Especially turning the ball over. Not only do they not give themselves a chance for points by turning it over, but they give Miami fast break opportunities. Against the Heat, fast breaks are almost automatic points. New York had 24 turnovers in game 1 and as a result, they lost by 33 points. New York cannot make mistakes tonight, or else they will lose. Badly.
- Melo must score and STAT must get involved. The second Knick “superstar” was just 2/7 shooting in game 1. The Knicks couldn’t get him the ball and when they did, he wasn’t in ideal scoring position. They didn’t run much of the offense around Stoudemire, and instead opted to feed Anthony who shot 3/15. The Knicks must get Stoudemire involved, but Anthony has to play well in order to help open up the floor for Stoudemire. If Miami’s defense is focused on slowing down Anthony, they’re more likely to lose track of Stoudemire. If Anthony doesn’t score, then Miami can play straight up and neither player has an advantage. Stoudemire has to get involved and Anthony has to help open the floor. The Knicks will get destroyed again if both players struggle. JR Smith can score, but he shouldn’t be New York’s primary scorer. They must run the offense through STAT and Melo.
- New York must shoot the ball well. In game one, the Knicks shot just 7/21 from downtown. In order to win, the Knicks must be lethal from beyond the arc. JR Smith, Steve Novak and Mike Bibby must contribute with made shots. Novak played 24 minutes in game 1 and was only able to get 2 shot attempts up. The Knicks have to do a better job of getting Novak open looks. JR Smith shot 3/8 from downtown, not horrible, but he’s got to get hot like he did against Boston. Make no mistake about it, New York is shorthanded. Chandler and Baron Davis will be hampered, while Iman Shumpert is obviously out. They need guys to step up and JR has to be one of those guys.