Saturday, April 28, 2012
How healthy is Davis heading into Game 1?
By Jared Zwerling
"I would say just from how I normally play, and what my normal game is, I am a bit limited," Baron Davis said before the Bobcats game Thursday night, referring to his sore right hamstring. "But at the same time I know I can still play, so it doesn't bother me. I've played with injuries and limitations throughout my career, and this is just another adjustment.
"At this point, the playoffs are here, so no matter what I've just got to come out and play with a lot of energy. You gotta give it all you got. That's what I'm prepared to do. I'm just going to give it my best shot."
Davis said he's still nursing the injury and will have to be smart about how hard he pushes himself during the playoffs, especially because of the physicality of the games. But he doesn't foresee Mike Woodson putting a cap on his minutes.
"I don't think so," Davis said. "I think Coach will use me as he sees fit and I'm going to be available and make myself available to play 56 minutes if necessary. I'm ready to and I can't wait for the playoffs to start.
"I still feel that I have a lot left to prove. I'm very confident in my game and what I can do and what I know I can do and just to be on the team like this, where I know how to fit in and what my role is, just helps me get to that place I want to be with more patience."
Based on his matchup with Heat point guard Mario Chalmers, here are areas Davis will and won't be effective:
WHERE DAVIS CAN EXCEL:Baron Davis can use his 6-3, 215-pound body to keep Mario Chalmers at bay, allowing him more visibility to see the court and set up his teammates, especially off of the pick-and-roll. In addition, his size will be able to get him into the paint several times during the game and make plays closer to the basket, especially getting Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler feeds inside. Also, because the Heat are one of the worst teams defending 3-pointers -- they try to leverage their athleticism on the wings to create turnovers and fireworks in the open court, but when their energy is sapped, their perimeter rotations slack -- Davis should get some open outside looks and knock them down (he's a career 32.0 percent from downtown). Overall, while Davis is lacking some explosiveness due to his sore right hamstring, he's a veteran and crafty playmaker-- he's been to the playoffs six times -- who will help the Knicks' young guys maintain their composure during a very intense series, whether he's playing or on the bench. His keen eye and wise words will come in handy.
WHERE DAVIS MAY STRUGGLE: Two main things, with the first being his health. While Davis will be able to put in strong first quarters, which he's been doing lately, he'll sore right hamstring will get the better of him as the game progresses, especially because it's the playoffs where the intensity and physical contact will be much higher. Speaking to this point -- this is the second thing -- the Heat's pick-and-roll defense is one of the best in the league. Their perimeter athleticism is just too good, anchored by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. And don't forget about center Joel Anthony, who moves in every direction like a crab. He's the most underrated element of the Heat's P&R D. The Heat have a defensive system that thrives on air-tight rotations and aggressively disrupting the pick-and-roll ball-handler (in this case, Davis). Chalmers will, of course, get the one-on-one assignment at first, but guarding Davis will be a team-wide effort.
ADVANTAGE: Heat. It comes down to one main thing: health. Chalmers can start, play and finish games. Down the stretch, Chalmers has the ability to make big 3-point shots (his accuracy from beyond the arc is a career-high 38.9 percent this season), but Davis could likely be sitting for most of the fourth quarter, with J.R. Smith taking his place at point guard. And that's a position where he can do some damage, and one that Mike Woodson feels comfortable with.