Perhaps the most hyped game of the night heading into NBA All-Star break, the Knicks and Heat are sure to put on a good show tonight as LINsanity makes its way into Miami.
Though the Knicks are 9-2 in the Jeremy Lin era, the Heat represent perhaps the most dynamic competition the Knicks have faced all month. Although the Knicks beat the defending NBA champion Mavericks earlier in the week, the Heat matchup much better with them in terms of player for player talent and/or skill set.
The Knicks have previously matched up quite well with the Heat over the past two seasons, as their games have gone to the wire with both teams competing at a high level. As shown in the past, the Knicks are quite capable of winning such ballgames. Will LINsanity prevail over King James and the Heat? Here are a couple of things that need to happen in order for the Knicks to send Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin, and Landry Fields to Orlando this weekend in high spirits.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Make quick decisions. Act fast. The Knicks need to catch the Heat's defense off guard, switching things up and featuring different players on offense throughout the game. Of course, the glue that holds all of this together will be Jeremy Lin.
The Harvard grad needs to look to attack the basket with all his might. Lin's skillful penetration has been what's propelling the Knicks to victory as of late. If he's given the opportunity to do so, Lin needs to take it inside against the likes of Chris Bosh and the Heat's center-by-committee.
With that said, should the Heat chose to pressure Lin, trapping him with the ball up top, he needs to move with great haste and act accordingly. Don't let the defense trap you for long. Instead, Lin needs to look for the open man, whether it be the likes of Landry Fields or Steve Novak on the perimeter, or Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler via the pick and roll.
If all else fails for Lin, the Knicks can always opt to run the offense through perhaps Carmelo Anthony and/or J.R. Smith, with the hope they have better luck getting to the hole.
2) Make necessary adjustments. Over the last week, much has been said about the Knicks' elevated depth with the additions of Baron Davis and J.R. Smith, as well as the return from injury by Carmelo Anthony. One key to a potential Knicks victory tonight will be Coach Mike D'Antoni's ability to juggle his rotation effectively.
With so many different options (new and old) in his arsenal, D'Antoni will need to react to the different matchups tonight, making sure the ideal players are on the court in order to come away with a win. If the defense is pressuring Lin and other Knicks guards up top, sub in the team's better big men to capitalize on the pick and roll. If the Heat decide to guard the three ball, let Lin and Anthony penetrate. Should they instead decide to swarm STAT and Chandler down low, put in your best shooters from deep to spread the floor.
Whatever the situation calls for, D'Antoni and the Knicks need to shake things up throughout, making sure there is no lull in their offensive flow.
3) Let the Miami Heat shoot the ball. Of course, a team's defensive strategy going into the game may also need to be adjusted accordingly, depending on how the opponent's offense reacts. That being said, the Heat have two of the better penetrators in all of the NBA in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Seeing how Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire are two of the Knicks' better talents, it would make sense for the Heat to choose to attack the basket, going at both big men in an attempt at forcing them to rack up the fouls. What makes things worse for the Knicks, both big men have been known to have flaring tempers, among the league leaders in technical fouls. Take either one out of the game due to foul trouble and/or frustration, and things could get ugly for the Knicks very quickly.
What's the solution here? How do the Knicks prevent this from occurring? Allow the Heat to shoot the ball around the perimeter. Lin and Fields are both capable man to man defenders, and can, of course, apply some pressure to distract shooters. But the main goal tonight should be allowing the Heat to shoot the basketball, rather than driving to the hoop.
With such explosive offensive players, there's no one easy way to stop the Heat from hurting you. That said, the Knicks can attempt to throw off the opponents' game by tempting them to shoot from deep, rather than going inside for easier buckets. The Knicks' pressure, along with the Heat's prior strategy and/or first instinct, will decide what happens here.
Either way, tonight's matchup should be an exciting one. Needless to say, should they come away with a victory, the Knicks will be carrying quite the amount of momentum with them into the second half of the season.