Shane Battier contains Knicks' launch party
April, 6, 2014
By Israel Gutierrez
MIAMI -- Try, as hard as you can, not to think about J.R. Smith’s 22 3-point shot attempts in Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat just yet.
Try not to think about how perfectly it lines up with Smith’s career narrative (he has been equal parts punch line and production) that those shots came in a 102-91 loss, and that the performance came while the Knicks are in a desperate playoff push.
Because there were more meaningful elements to the 102-91 Heat win than Smith’s attempts, even if it does allow one to point out that the Memphis Grizzlies as a team have not attempted as many 3-pointers in a game this season as Smith just did by himself.
Actually, some of those other elements are what allowed (forced?) Smith into launching that NBA-record number of attempts from distance.
At the top of that list was the battle between Carmelo Anthony and Shane Battier.
Anthony came into the game with a shoulder injury that has been described as both a deep bruise and a light sprain. Regardless, it was an ailment that clearly affected Anthony, and that’s not just based on his 4-of-17 shooting performance.
Battier entered the game having played exactly one second in the Heat's double overtime loss to the Timberwolves on Friday, and that came as an inbounder for the final shot attempt of the game, a Ray Allen miss.
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesShane Battier delivered a strong defensive performance on New York's Carmelo Anthony.
Battier’s role has been erratic lately, going from starter for more than half the season to being a spot contributor down the stretch.
And in a season he has acknowledged will be his last, Battier has been considered by many as someone who wouldn’t be nearly the playoff asset he has been over the last two years.
But in a game against one of the league’s best scorers, even with Anthony carrying a bum shoulder, Battier reminded us that even at 35, he still can impact a championship-level team.
“A game like today, I’m trying to prove myself to myself and prove myself to my teammates,” said Battier, who also hit his only two shot attempts, both 3-pointers, and collected three steals. “That’s the thing that keeps us going. We’ve all been in that spot here. Unless your name is James, Wade or Bosh, we’ve all been in the spot where you wish you played more or contributed more. But the reason why guys continue to fight, continue to stay in shape and stay ready is because of this locker room. We owe it to each other. That’s the only way this works.
“When you play for higher stakes, you have to prove more of yourself. You can say all the right things, but you have to walk the walk. Your teammates know when you’re full of it. You can’t fool the locker room.”
Now, it’s quite possible that Anthony going 4-of-17 had as much to do with his shoulder as it did with Battier’s defense. It’s quite possible that Anthony missing six of his last seven shots and not taking a single attempt in the fourth was injury-related rather than Battier-related (10 of Smith’s 22 3-point attempts came in the fourth quarter, but you’re not supposed to be thinking about that).
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra likes to think Battier, whom he regularly admits is one of his favorite players, had plenty to do with it also.
“He won’t want to take the credit for it,” Spoelstra said. “He doesn’t want to say he’s an Anthony stopper. Shane just does what he does.
“And what is the residual of that, all the bumping and grinding, the denying, getting him out another step, every inch of that real estate is fought for? I don’t know what that final result is, but you know you’re going to have to work against him.”
Battier said he learned at shootaround early Sunday that he’d get in the game early and have to battle Anthony often.
The Heat were without Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden for the sixth straight game, while Chris Andersen missed the game as well with a minor knee ailment. That put even more pressure on Battier to come through.
And it reminded him exactly what he’ll miss about this game most, other than the locker-room camaraderie.
“I will miss the feeling of the butterflies before a game when I know I have to guard a Carmelo Anthony, guard a Kevin Durant, a Kobe Bryant,” Batter said. “There’s nothing in my life that will ever, ever replicate that feeling. So I try to enjoy it. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not. But it makes you feel alive.
“It makes you feel like, ‘I better bring it today or I’m going to be embarrassed on national television.’”
Battier certainly didn’t embarrass himself. In fact, he showed he might have another year or so left in him.
Because even when Anthony isn’t making shots, he’s still fighting for them. And that includes plenty of physical activity.
“It’s not an easy matchup to ref, because he’s holding me, I’m holding him,” Battier said. “If you go by the letter of the law, we would’ve both fouled out in the first five minutes. That’s the truth. He’s a physical player and he forces the action.”
Speaking of forcing the action, it was Anthony’s struggles against Battier that compelled the Knicks to look elsewhere for offense.
Amar'e Stoudemire? You’d think he’s a solid option given his recent play and Miami’s lack of interior size Sunday.
But hey, Smith was 5-of-8 from 3-point territory in the first half so, you know, 14 more of those attempts were in order (it’s OK to think about him now).
Smith’s barrage did include a stretch of 5-of-6 made 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the fourth and fifth makes both bringing the Knicks to within six points of Miami.
But after Chris Bosh hit a 3-poointer of his own to extend the Heat’s lead to 100-91 with 92 seconds left to play, Smith missed his final three 3-pointers, including a meaningless attempt with 15.8 seconds left that gave him the dubious record.
“It’s not really a goal of mine,” said Smith, whose 10 makes were a Knicks record also. “I saw opportunities, I tried to take them.
“In the fourth quarter, I forced more than I should’ve.”
It’s quite possible Smith did, yes. But then again, he was 5-of-10 from distance in the fourth.
Still, the idea of taking that many bombs is entirely foreign to most NBA players. Certainly the ones in the Heat locker room.
Norris Cole said he couldn’t imagine taking that many in a practice.
LeBron James, who, by the way, had 38 points on 22 shots (seven of those were 3-pointers), couldn’t even picture doing it in a pickup game.
“Nah, not even,” James said. “When I scored 61, I was what, 8 for 10 [from 3-point territory]. So, uh, no.
“Only a few guys in our league just have unconscious levels about shooting the ball. J.R. Smith is one of them.”
Quite possibly the only one. But hey, in a game that meant so much more than just one rather hollow record, made you think about him.