Tomorrow, the Knicks will help the Heat open a six game homestand at the AA Arena in South Beach. Seth (Posting and Toasting) and Kevin (SB Nation Tampa Bay) sat down to talk a little about their respective clubs, possible outcomes, and the impact of Josh Harrellson.
For a while there, New York was the Jeremy Lin show. How has Raymond Felton handled the pressure of replacing him?
Raymond Felton's been pretty solid. I don't think he worries too much about filling Lin's shoes and, especially since the Knicks have been quite good and Lin's been a little spotty in Houston, that storyline has been mercifully subdued so far. But yeah, Lin aside, Felton's not blowing anyone away, but he's running the Knicks' offense smartly and carefully. He's got an excellent, ever-growing rapport with the team's primary offensive weapons. What the hell is up with the Heat defense?
Udonis Haslem is not the player he used to be. Joel Anthony doesn't get many minutes. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis aren't exactly what you would term "defensive specialists," and LBJ can't be everywhere. Now the Heat's leading thief, Mario Chalmers (1.8 SPG) may be out for God knows how long with a sprained ring finger (non shooting hand, probably not an issue).
Miami's defensive lapsing appears to be inversely proportionate to Miami's success on offense. I have to admit, all offense and no defense has made for some exciting games, but I'd rather not develop an ulcer over it thank you very much.
Amare Stoudemire is expected to miss another month or so recovering from his knee surgery. Will the Knicks suffer a setback when he is reintroduced into the rotation?
I hear that question a lot. Obviously, I don't know. The Knicks' defense hasn't been so good that I worry much about Amar'e hurting it, but I suppose that's possible. In terms of Amar'e's offensive presence hurting New York's efficiency or, more specifically, Carmelo Anthony's effectiveness...we'll see. I'm one of those who still thinks there were extenuating circumstances hindering the possibility Melo, Amar'e, and Tyson Chandler forming a coherent whole last season, but I do recognize that Melo has played his best ball at the four and that Chandler and Amar'e often ran face-first into one another around the rim last season. It'll be interesting to see how often and with which units Amar'e plays upon his return. In general, do the Heat strike you as genuinely struggling, or just kind of coasting these days?
Miami may suffer from a touch of the old "overconfidence." When they come to play, they'll match any team's weapons and ability, and not in a good way. Struggling? It's hard to say a 12-4 defending champion is "struggling," but Miami still (refer to question one) hasn't figured out how to defend the lanes or the long ball.
When it comes right down to it, Miami can afford to allow 110 points per game if they score at least 111. Erik Spoelstra knows that sometimes the best defense is to score more than the other guy, and that's something the Heat can produce three times out of four. Speaking of defenses gone awry, let's talk about Marcus Camby. It seems like he is easily banged up, and has played only 46 minutes thus far this season. Does he have anything left in the tank?
Well, between the time you asked me this question and right now, Camby has been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, so...maybe? Not much in the tank right now. How have the new additions changed the complexion of the Heat, if at all?
The three players we lost combined for 712 minutes all last season, or an average of three and a half minutes per player per game. Additionally, none of the three were a significant part of the rotation for any length of time (Turiaf earned a few minutes late in the year, but was largely ignored in the playoffs).
The three we gained have already played 678 minutes (Allen 436/16 games, Lewis 222/14 games, and Harrellson 10/three games), or 20.6 minutes per player per game. Like the departed Heatsters, none of these three are on the starting lineup. Unlike their predecessors, they have already made timely and significant contributions to the bottom line. Allen has already hit three game winning shots, and as ridiculous as it may seem, is shooting at a career best 50 percent three point rate (if he keeps it up, this will mark the third season in a row that he has set a new career high in the category). Rashard Lewis' PER is ranking up there with what he was putting up five years ago, and Josh, well, we love Josh.
Miami leads the NBA with a .495 shooting percentage and a .425 three point percentage. The key to beating Miami lays not in shutting them down, but in exploiting their sometimes suspect defense. With time running out and down by one, which Miami player is the most susceptible defensively, and who do you want taking the last heave?
It sure seems like those former Sonics-- Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis-- have been key to some defensive breakdowns this season. Ideally, Melo's the guy you want trying to score late in a game. Even more ideally, though, I'd prefer that he not try to get that bucket with a one-on-everyone isolation. You can use Melo to get a good, open look for one of the Knicks' shooters or run Melo through screens or as a decoy to the pick-and-roll to get him a good, open look instead of a tough one. On that note, please tell me you love Josh Harrellson as much as Knicks fans do.
Last season, Jorts ranked 14th on the Knicks in total minutes played, with 540. This season with the Heat, he has played exactly 10 minutes, also ranking 14th on the team. In his very limited time, he has put up a PER of 29.0, 0.8 points better than the reigning MVP LBJ. He's made 2-of-3 field goals, including 1-for-1 from deep, with five rebounds and a steal. That being said, I'm sure we'd all like to see a little more of him.
Many have the Heat and Knicks facing off in the Eastern Conference Final. Never mind one game...how could New York take down the champs four times out of seven?
Hard to imagine that happening, but I imagine it'd take near-perfect health, some excellent shooting from the perimeter, and some serious stifling of Miami's transition game. One thing the Knicks have had going for them is a very low turnover rate, and they'd need to keep that up to avoid giving the Heat easy baskets.
The "New Orleans Pelicans" thing got me thinking: I really don't like the name "Miami Heat." I'm just not a fan of team names that are mass nouns and aren't decidedly plural. Perhaps you disagree, but given the opportunity to change the Miami mascot, would you? And to what would you change it?
Well, the "Miami Heats" doesn't really seem to make much sense, does it? I'll admit to being a little confused when we first heard the name 27 years ago, as at the time there wasn't much precedent in professional sports with mass nouns. Since then, we've been introduced to the NHL's Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Colorado Avalanche, as well as the Orlando Magic. All things considered, yeah, I'm with you. Something local - Hurricanes already taken. Sandy beaches aren't that threatening. The Oasis - again with the mass nouns. I've always been a fan of the Miami Sharks, the perfect complement to the Dolphins. So let's go with the Sharks.