Knicks-Heat: What to Watch For

Salutations friends! Your EASTERN CONFERENCE LEADING New York Knickerbockers face off against the evil empire of LeBane James and the Miami Heat tonight. Coming off a hilarious last second victory yesterday against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Knicks are a bit banged up. Jason Kidd just returned from back spasms in yesterdays game. Raymond Felton has a bruised left hand. Carmelo Anthony lacerated his left finger diving into the stands for a loose ball yesterday and is questionable to play. I think the Knicks stand a good chance to win tonight, even if Anthony misses the game.

The Knicks and Heat are the two best offensive teams in basketball, ranking 1st and 2nd in offensive efficiency in the league respectively. New York is the 11th best defensive team in the league, while Miami comes in ranked 19th. Both squads rank towards the bottom of the league in pace.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • New York’s pick and roll offense versus Miami’s pick and roll defense. The Knicks are one of the best pick and roll squads in the league while Miami has been average defending pick and rolls. According to Synergy, Miami is much better defending roll men, 0.87 points per possession allowed (3rd in NBA), but they have struggled defending the ball handler, 0.81 points per possession allowed (20th in NBA). Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler have been on a roll as of late and will need to continue to do so if the Knicks want to win tonight. In the season opener at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks had 8 field goal attempts from their pick and roll players, shooting 50%. Miami should be locked in defensively tonight, meaning they’ll be aggressive in their rotations. In pick and roll play, Felton and the other point guards should be able to find open spot up shooters.
  • The Knicks have to stop the Ray Allen corner three. Knick opponents this season have shot 43.4% from the corner three this season, meaning the Knicks haven’t been very good in defending that shot on the floor. Lets take a look at Ray Allen’s shot chart from this season:

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 3.49.08 PM

  • As you can see, Ray Allen is shooting a cool 68.4% from the left corner. Miami runs that LeBron-Bosh pick and roll and Allen is often left open in that corner. The Knicks need to find a way, maybe through hedging hard on pick and rolls, to keep LeBron from penetrating and finding Allen in the corner. This worries me because we all know the Knicks have had their struggles defending pick and rolls at times this season (see San Antonio, Memphis).
  • Three point shooting. If Anthony is in fact out, or even if he plays, the Knicks will have to hit their three point shots. They shot just 13/41 from downtown last night. If they shoot like that again, they will lose. JR Smith has to get back on track as his three point shooting has been atrocious lately. Miami is a middle of the road defense in defending the three point shot, allowing a 52% eFG% to opponents. We all know how game 1 between these two teams went, but in case you forgot check out the Knicks shot chart from the season opener. Check out all the green from three point land. That’s what the Knicks will need tonight.

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 4.29.30 PM

There you have it! The Knicks have to dominate in the pick and roll, they have to keep Ray Allen in check and they’ve got to be efficient from downtown. Obviously they can’t let LeBron or Dwayne Wade take over the game, but that really goes without saying. I feel quite confident tonight. I hate speaking in generalities, but I think this Knicks team has is riding high on confidence right now and I think we’ll see that carry over to tonight’s game.

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