Saturday, February 1, 2014
3-on-3: Miami Heat at New York Knicks
The Miami Heat visit the New York Knicks for a Super Bowl eve showdown. Our 3-on-3 crew sets the table.
1. Fact or Fiction: Small-ball is no longer a clear Heat advantage
Israel Gutierrez: Faction. Just depends on who the opposition is. You couldn't say it was a clear advantage last year against the Pacers, but the Heat found just enough to make it work. But, yes, after three-plus years of Miami's success in this system, others around the league have found better ways to defend it and mimic it. Miami is not alone.
Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. It's almost impossible to survive playing small-ball when you're putting in 50 percent effort defensively. I'm guessing this is a temporary lull. I do worry about Shane Battier and Ray Allen's battle with Father Time, but I suspect that they'll come around in the playoffs. The clear advantage may not surface until May.
Michael Wallace: Fiction. Although a select group of versatile, athletic teams are capable of matching up well when Miami goes small, the Heat still will usually have at least two of the most dynamic players on the court in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. But as Bosh said after the loss to Oklahoma City, the Heat got a taste of what other opponents go through when they face Miami.
2. Fact or Fiction: Carmelo is a tougher cover than Durant
Gutierrez: Fiction. Carmelo Anthony's not as tall, which obviously gives Kevin Durant an advantage. He's stronger than Durant, but doesn't use that strength to his advantage often enough. And he doesn't have all the shots Durant has, including some of those floaters and the one-legged action. Plus, Melo's a bit easier to lock into, because he's less willing to give it up.
Haberstroh: Fiction. Carmelo is stronger and more of a bully around the rim, but right now, no one's tougher than the Slim Reaper who finished January with a 36.7 PER. That's only topped by LeBron's February last season. But you knew that already since you're a regular viewer of the BIG Number, right?
Wallace: Fiction. Durant's combination of length at nearly 7-feet tall and his vision as a willing facilitator allows him to beat a defender with incredible passing as much as prolific scoring. That's double trouble for any foe. Carmelo has one aim -- and it's right at the rim. Still, there's a reason why LeBron said these two are his most difficult matchups in the league.
3. Fact or Fiction: Defending the 3-ball is a major concern for Miami
Gutierrez: Fact, until it isn't anymore. Wade mentioned the Heat tinkered with their rotations to prepare for Oklahoma City, which likely led to a handful of those open threes. But historically, the Heat cut off the 3-pointers when absolutely necessary. Just look at Danny Green's shooting numbers after setting the Finals record and putting Miami's 2012-13 season on the brink (2 of 11 from three in Games 6 and 7).
Haberstroh: Fiction. Not a major one. This is an anthill, not a mountain, of a problem. The real key is that they have to cause turnovers. They've had similar 3-point issues in the past around this time and they patch it up for the playoffs. This team is almost impossible to judge in the winter since so much of their success depends on all-out effort. Which isn't required right now.
Wallace: Fact. Late defensive rotations and poor closeouts have been consistent problems for the Heat. Expect the Knicks to try to pick up where the Thunder left off the other night when they torched Miami's defense for 16 3-pointers. If you've got floor-spacing shooters and an efficient, attacking facilitator, you've got a shot at a great night against the Heat.