NBA fans were treated to a playoff preview of sorts on Sunday afternoon, as the Heat came to the Big Apple to take on the Knicks.
With the Heat sitting pretty as second seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Knicks just a half game behind the 76ers for the seventh seed, it's probable both teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs, igniting once again the rivalry that has carried on for years.
Heading into the game with a 9-0 record at home under new head coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks were looking to stay perfect at MSG, while at the same time, asserting they may have enough to handle Miami in a playoff series.
Unfortunately, the Heat were too hot for the Knicks to handle on Sunday. The Knicks were slow out the gate, and though they were able to claw their way back, it just wasn't enough to overpower Miami.
More often than not, teams blame early 1PM game starts as the reasoning for coming out on tired legs. That said, the Knicks did not necessarily look exhausted on the court, rather, more handicapped by the Heat.
The opposing defense made it difficult for the Knicks' offense to really get things going. They contested shots efficiently and made it tough for New York to truly space the floor. As a result, Carmelo Anthony was left to carry the scoring burden on his own once again. Needless to say, his 42 points were not enough to get his team the victory.
Despite scoring a season-high 18 points during the Knicks' romp of the Wizards Friday night, the veteran point guard has shown little to no proof that he will be half the player the Knicks had hoped he'd be come playoff time. He's a driving (negative) force in what makes the team's offense so stagnant, and clearly no longer has that hop in his jump shot. His jumper is flat, and he is furthermore not able to finish at the basket. This means his prime alternative with the ball in his hands is to kick it out to his teammates to find them for easy buckets, but Davis has failed to do that on a consistent basis.
Landry Fields also struggled, on both sides of the floor, against the Heat. His confidence has slowly been fading away, thus leading to an array of missed shots. What's more, the second-year player is just simply not able to handle a player like LeBron James. This proved to be a huge shortcoming, as James lit the Knicks up 29 points. That said, perhaps the coaching staff should have realized such a mismatch early on and not assigned Fields such a formidable opponent.
Dwyane Wade also shot efficiently to cash in with 28 points of his own. Both players' erupting for offensive explosions proved enough to overwhelm the Knicks, reasonably so.
Davis and Fields are only two pieces to the puzzle, but many of the team's existent flaws shined for the worse yesterday afternoon.
What's more, the Heat covered the perimeter well, all but negating Steve Novak from the equation too. This left Anthony and J.R. Smith (who scored 16 points on 6 of 15 from the field) to fend for themselves and elevate the team to victory. It just didn't happen.
Without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, it will be difficult for the Knicks to not only maintain the same tempo through a longer playoff series, but also to matchup with Miami at all.
It may be better for the Knicks to end up as the eighth seed and take on Chicago, rather move up and then be left to deal with the Heat's overwhelming firepower.