Five ways the Knicks can beat the Heat
November, 2, 2012
By Jared Zwerling | ESPNNewYork.com
"So you're telling me there's a chance."
Jim Carrey's character from the 1994 film "Dumb & Dumber," Lloyd, responded with those memorable words after his dream girl told him there was a one-in-a-million chance they would end up together.
Entering Friday night's season opener against the Heat, many Knicks fans feel the same way as Lloyd with their team hosting the defending champs after Tuesday's convincing win over the Celtics. But the Knicks have formed a more seasoned, deeper and better defensive team that could challenge -- and even beat -- the Heat.
Here are five ways the Knicks can win Friday night at the Garden:
1. Overcome the Heat's halfcourt traps and pick-and-roll D. As one veteran NBA advance scout described Miami's defense: "It's freakin' unbelievable. They're like a machine, man. They're on point with everything, and it's actually fun to watch. I've got to give it to them."
The Knicks won't admit it, but they knew after the Heat dominated their point guards last season and in the playoffs, they needed to upgrade their rotation at the one position. Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni should help break the Heat's perimeter attack, but they'll need to be fast and quick with their passing. The Heat's defensive rotation is among the best in the league.
"The Heat can eat you alive," the scout said. "They really wear on you."
2. Get creative with offensive movement surrounding Carmelo Anthony. With Amar'e Stoudemire out, Anthony will likely start at power forward in halfcourt sets. Mike Woodson will mostly set him up in the mid-post area, referred to by scouts as "the Jordan post," about five feet beyond the block.
Since Melo can beat anyone in single coverage, the Heat will throw quick double teams at him. The Knicks will have to be ready, which is why Woodson mixed in some plays for the other four players on the court during Thursday's practice.
"You can't just throw it to [Anthony] and just stand there and watch him, because defenses in this league won't allow you to do that," the scout said. "When you throw it to him, you'll need guys cutting on the weak side and guys on the strong side picking for each other -- kind of like the triple-post/triangle action."
3. Benefit from Anthony's defense on LeBron James. While Melo isn't considered a consistent defender, he always shows up in big-time matchups. With fresh legs to open the season, the Knicks will need all of Anthony's effort against the reigning MVP.
"When he's engaged and challenged, he can defend," the scout said. "I don't think you'll have to pull it out of him much with Woodson. I think he likes Mike, so he'll accept that challenge."
4. Allow Steve Novak to establish a rhythm. The Heat basically neutralized Novak in the first round of the playoffs last season. He only shot 4-for-7 from three-point range in five games. So Novak entered the offseason determined to add more to his game, specifically better pump fakes and one-to-two-dribble moves into a jumpshot. In the preseason, he's been running more pick-and-pops with the seasoned point guards, so that should transfer over against the Heat. With Ray Allen on the opposing side, the Knicks need Novak to provide a shooting spark.
5. Limit the Heat's defensive rebounds and transition D. Any time James and Dwyane Wade are on the court together, the Heat are going to attack the boards harder to try and push the ball in transition. James and Wade in the open floor equal the most dangerous fastbreak in the league. Fortunately for the Knicks, Marcus Camby should play Friday night, so he, Tyson Chandler and Anthony should form a better paint presence on defense to not allow James, Wade and Chris Bosh to score easy boards. If the game is physical and close, a fourth-quarter run by the Heat could change the game in a flash, led by Wade, James and Allen's 3-point shooting in transition. So the Knicks need to maintain their defensive intensity and efficiency.
While another scout doesn't believe in the Knicks -- "they would be the greatest threat to the Heat if their big men were five years younger," he said -- there's always that chance.
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.