The Knicks open their season Friday night against the toughest competition in the East, the defending champion Miami Heat.
It comes at an emotional time for the many who are dealing with the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. In fact, the Knicks will hold a special pregame ceremony to honor the victims and relief efforts.
Once the ball is tipped, here are three things to watch for:
1. How they control the tempo from the start. The Garden crowd is going to be loud, and the Knicks need to feed off of that in the first quarter. The Heat are riding high off a convincing win over the Celtics on Tuesday, and they're going to want to push the ball early to test the new-look Knicks' transition defense. The Knicks need to maintain defensive intensity and efficiency for all four quarters.
2. How they manufacture offense outside of Carmelo Anthony. While we all know Mike Woodson is a defensive-minded coach, how he orchestrates the offense this season -- especially for the first two months with Amar'e Stoudemire sidelined -- will be critical. When Melo gets the ball, watch how he works his defender and scans the court, and how the other Knicks space the floor and move without the ball. If the Knicks brick a shot from the perimeter in the closing seconds of the shot clock, it was likely contested and it was probably a poor possession in which the players were too stagnant.
3. How they defend Ray Allen. It starts with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's attacking. When they get deep enough into the paint, they're both going to look to make a swing pass to Allen in the baseline corner -- the sharpshooter's favorite spot. While it's inevitable that James and Wade will get to the basket, the Knicks need to remain conscious of where Allen is at all times on the court. If they can find a defensive rotation strategy to close out on Allen, it will force James and Wade to finish at the rim. With Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas and even Rasheed Wallace down low -- Marcus Camby won't be playing -- that's a promising recipe for some altered shots and offensive fouls.
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