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Thursday, February 23, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Heat 102, Knicks 88

By Jared Zwerling

WHAT IT MEANS: Miami not only completely hushed Linsanity for an evening, it hushed the entire Knicks squad.

The Heat, the hottest team in the league, winners of eight straight and 19 of 22, put the Knicks' offensive staple -- the pick and roll -- to the ultimate test with arguably the league's best defense, one that limited Jeremy Lin and his teammates from finding any offensive flow.

Lin scored only eight points -- his worst outing since taking over the starting point guard position on Feb. 6 -- and no Knick scored more than 20 points, including Carmelo Anthony. Melo finished with 19 points and Amare Stoudemire had only 13 in a 102-88 defeat.

The Knicks (17-18) dropped below .500 for the third time in the past week and head into the All-Star break with many offensive adjustments to make.

TURNING POINT: Before the game, Mike D'Antoni said that while the Knicks and Heat are both talented, Miami has more experience. That experience came together for the Heat in the third quarter. During halftime, LeBron James (20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists) and Dwyane Wade (22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists) must have exactly pinpointed the Knicks' gray defensive spots, because they found their hot-zone areas when the game started back up. The Heat outscored the Knicks 29-19 in the third period, led by the superstar duo getting into the middle of the paint and hitting jump shot after jump shot.

On defense, the Heat swarmed the interior and it seemed like there were always three or four defenders around the Knicks' bigs. The Knicks had no open windows, whereas the Heat did -- and capitalized on them. The Heat shot 48.8 percent from the field, the Knicks 42.3.

THE GOOD: 1. The Knicks matched the Heat's high energy level in the first quarter, evident in their six offensive rebounds and six second-chance points, compared to the Heat's one rebound (and two second-chance points). Landry Fields' effort around the rim (three offensive boards in the first period) was especially impressive. He had six points in the first half. The Knicks continued that aggressiveness throughout the game, getting to the line 22 times, compared the Heat's 19.

2. After Wednesday night's win over the Hawks, D'Antoni said that with Baron Davis in the second unit, there should be no drop-off in consistency from the starting five. That showed tonight. When Davis checked into the game, the Knicks erased their deficit and took over the lead, temporarily, thanks to Davis' penetration and passing, which led to ball movement and finding Steve Novak (a.k.a. Novacaine) from his favorite place: the baseline corner. He was 4-for-5 from downtown in the game (12 points). J.R. Smith was also efficient, scoring 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting.

3. How much better the Knicks can defend the perimeter. While Wade had 22 points, Iman Shumpert sat out with an injury. When he's back at full strength, the Knicks will have a huge defensive weapon.

THE BAD: 1. Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers. Give credit to the Heat's pick-and-roll defense, arguably the best in the business, but Lin was, once again, turnover-prone. He finished with eight (six in the first half) and Stoudemire had six. That allowed the Heat to go off on their patented transition attack, featuring James and Wade. Through three quarters, the Heat had 17 fast-break points, while the Knicks had only three.

2. Where was the Knicks' pick and roll? The Heat's ability to completely throw off the Knicks' offensive staple is telling about the improvement the Knicks need to make to be competitive with the top team in the East. Lin has a lot of film to study, that's for sure.

3. Stoudemire's disappearing act in the second half. In the first half, he took advantage of the open looks and spacing, finishing with a team-high 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. STAT even had a steal in the first quarter, and he single-handedly led the team's fast break before getting fouled on a dunk attempt. But in the second, he was a complete non-factor. The Heat proved that they are one of the best teams in the league at adjusting during a game. They saw STAT was hot and neutralized him, not to mention the entire Knicks team.

WHAT'S NEXT: All-Star Weekend festivities kick off Friday morning. Lin and Fields will be participating in the rookie-sophomore game Friday night, and on Sunday Anthony will be making his debut on the East team in the All-Star Game. Shumpert was to compete in the slam dunk contest on Saturday, but an injury has sidelined him. He was even planning on jumping over a couch, an ode to the one Lin was sleeping on at Fields and his brother's apartment before the point guard became a permanent member of the Knicks. After Sunday, the Knicks have two practice days to develop chemistry with their revamped roster and further heal -- Josh Harrellson could even return next week -- before taking on the Cavaliers on Wednesday night at the Garden at 7:30.

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