No Melo, no problem. Having their star player sit with a lacerated finger, the Knicks trounced the defending champion Heat 112-92 Thursday night in Miami. Raymond Felton carried the scoring load with maybe his best game as a pro, scoring 27 points on 10/20 shooting the ball. The NBA’s number one offense rode a 37 point third quarter and a lockdown defensive fourth quarter to turn the grudge match into a laugher. LeBron James played well, but the Knicks were able to render Dwayne Wade useless tonight. Wade, quickly ascending from superstardom in this league, shot just 3/13 and was a game low -33 in +/- on the night. Chris Bosh also was ineffective in his 30 minutes played.
Here are my notes from the game:
- Duck!!! Raymond Felton was absolutely fantastic tonight. Not only did he dominate with his scoring, shooting 50% and hitting six three pointers, but he really controlled the game. He was an absolute wizard on offense tonight. Whether it was throwing flashy assists, crossing guys up or forcing defensive switches to get him an iso on a big man, Felton pushed all the right buttons on offense. As he has done all season, Felton did a good job of making sure the pace of the game didn’t get too fast for the Knicks. There were only 93 possessions in the game, which is what the Knicks are looking for. Felton has done a spectacular job running the Knicks offense through these first 18 games. I was skeptical about the Knicks bringing him in as the starter, given that he has been a below average NBA player thus far in his career, but he has been absolutely fantastic this season. This was the best game I’ve ever seen him play.
- I said in my pregame write up that the Knicks had to shoot lights out from downtown tonight. They shot 18/44 (40.9%) from downtown, despite an 0/6 effort from Sheed. Smith and Jason Kidd each went 3/8 while Novak hit 4/9 and Felton was 6/10. When the Knicks shoot the ball like this, they’re incredibly difficult to beat. I really believe the Knicks strong three point shooting is sustainable. They won’t shoot threes at a 40% clip all season, but they can keep shooting the ball well because of the style of the offense. Credit to Mike Woodson, the Knicks really do a great job of unselfishly moving the ball and setting up open looks for each other. To me, this three point shooting tear gives me a lot of confidence about the teams chances in the playoffs. Whether or not the Knicks keep shooting this well the rest of the season, I don’t know. But the fact that they have the ability to have a prolonged stretch of games with this kind of outside shooting has to make opposing defenses cringe. I’m not going to get carried away and start talking about deep playoff runs, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t thinking about it.
- Te Knicks held Miami to a 98.9 offensive efficiency tonight. Given that Miami came into the game with an 110.5 offensive efficiency on the season, you have to be very happy about the Knicks defense tonight. It is a defense that I can’t really figure out. Some games they look dominant, and others they look slow and they do silly things. Tonight, New York was clearly fired up on defense and did a really great job. They didn’t let Miami get hot from downtown, holding the Heat to just 6/16 shooting. Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade combined to shoot 6/25. LeBron was good, but he’s the best player in the game. New York was able to keep LeBron from taking over the game and they didn’t allow his teammates to beat them. Given the opponent and the circumstances, the team not having Anthony, this might have been the Knicks best defensive effort of the night.
- Flight White played 17 minutes tonight. I wasn’t impressed by his defense, but he was an efficient 3/3 on offense and hit a three. I like Flight. He’s a solid player who isn’t going to try and play outside himself. It is clear to me that he knows how to play. A couple times I liked the way he swung the ball quickly and moved off the ball. He took a great foul on LeBron James to force him to shoot free throws. I’m not sure he deserves rotation minutes, but I feel good about him being on the bench in case of emergency.
- Pablo Prigioni is getting more comfortable. I thought he was good tonight. He hit some shots, didn’t turn the ball over, could’ve had about 7 assists, but the shots didn’t fall. When Amar’e Stoudemire comes back, I think Prigioni and him can make some sweet sweet music. Unfortunately the Knicks don’t have a great pick and roll big on their bench, so Prigioni isn’t able to do what he is best at. We saw Prigioni’s prowess in the pick and roll in the pre-season when he was setting up Chris Copeland left and right. I can’t wait to see how he meshes with Stoudemire.
- On par with their league leading turnover rate, the Knicks had just 7 turnovers tonight. They forced Miami into 14 turnovers. Because the Knicks play such a slow pace, thus resulting in fewer possessions, ball security is absolutely crucial to the success of the offense. By not giving up possessions without shots, the Knicks really are maximizing their opportunities on offense. I really credit Woodson for designing a great half-court offense and I credit the point guards for keeping the offense under control. This style of offense is sustainable and ball security will be crucial to the Knicks success throughout the rest of the season.
- Kurt Thomas actually contributed in his 11 minutes played and grabbed 3 offensive rebounds. That’s about all I have to say about that.
- We saw how Steve Novak’s slightly increased arsenal of spot up moves helped him tonight. A lot of talk around Novak after the Knicks loss to Miami in the playoffs was whether or not he could be effective against an athletic defense like Miami. Well tonight, he absolutely was. A couple times he was able to get clean looks with his quicker release. He was pump faking all over the place, setting himself up with open looks as the Miami defenders flew out of bounds. I really liked what we saw from Novak tonight. I still think he could get better with his shooting this season. I know he is shooting 43% this season, but he is still missing some open looks he usually drains. Moving forward, I think Novak will only get more comfortable with this quicker release, which is scary for the opposition.
- What I really loved about the Knicks tonight is that they didn’t skip a beat on offense without Carmelo Anthony. It wasn’t like they changed the offense without Melo in there. They didn’t run the ball into the post quite as much, but it was mostly the same offense we’ve seen all season. This is the measure of a great offense. Where on nights where a Carmelo or a Stoudemire misses a game because of injury or whatever reason, the offense can just plug and play. James White came in and played 17 minutes, the offense didn’t skip a beat. Steve Novak and Ronnie Brewer played more minutes than usual, the offense didn’t skip a beat. I give so much credit to Mike Woodson. He has implemented an offense predicated on ball movement that really fits this particular set of players. I would have slapped you in the face if you told me the Knicks would own the number one offense in basketball through nearly 20 games, but that is exactly what has happened.
I’m just going to leave this here, courtesy of our friends over at The Knicks Wall:
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