(Photo Credit: Jared Zevelansky)
The Miami HEAT travel to New York City to take on the Knicks Friday night. The HEAT enter 1-0 after beating the Boston Celtics on Ring Night. The Knicks have yet to play after their previous game was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. Coup and I answer five burning questions about tonight's action.1. If Carmelo Anthony plays more at the four with Amar'e Stoudemire out, do the Knicks match up better with Miami?
Couper Moorhead: Unequivocally yes, though that might have as much to do with Stoudemire's recent performance, particularly defensively, as it does with Anthony's apparent efficiency at that position. Putting Anthony at a position where defenders are less equipped to deal with his particular skillset is always going to be logical, but it doesn't give New York any advantage against a Miami team that is already playing guys up a positional slot. At best, the move evens the playing field in terms of speed on the court, but if Miami is again defending a large number of isolation possessions, then not a ton will have changed other than one of the HEAT's shooters being covered by a more mobile defender.
Danny Martinez: Yes, I think the Knicks will matchup better with the HEAT if Anthony plays more power forward than usual. With the HEAT playing unconventionally, it’s probably better for the Knicks to stay away from playing traditional power forwards, especially since theirs are older veterans. Anthony at the four should help the Knicks deal with the HEAT’s speed.
Last season the Knicks played well with Anthony featured at the four. They didn’t fall off significantly defensively and it allowed Anthony to attack larger, slower defenders. That won’t happen against the HEAT, but it does present the Knicks with their best opportunity.2. The Knicks were very isolation heavy against Miami last year. Expect anything different?
Couper: Almost a fifth of New York's offensive possessions were isolations last year, and that number rose dramatically when Mike Woodson took over as coach. That's a lot of ball-stopping, ball-watching offense which leads to habits that are tough to break. What the Knicks did last season doesn't preclude them from changing styles, but it's unlikely that things will be dramatically different so early into a season, especially with a number of new pieces on the team.
Danny: No, I don’t expect much different. The Knicks are what they are and what they are is an isolation heavy team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make things easier for the HEAT. Their starting lineup isn’t offense heavy and the plus offensive players favor isolations. Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler will probably run some pick-and-roll, but it won’t be the primary action. Unless something has changed greatly over the summer, I think we’ll see the Knicks attack the HEAT the same way they did in the second half of last season and in the postseason.3. While there probably aren't any doubts about Bosh playing center by now, is there anything specific you want to see from him against Tyson Chandler?
Couper: I'd like to see Bosh hit a couple of threes. Not because he needs to prove that he can hit them -- he's barely missing the one's he is taking, and the range looks far too easy for him -- but it would be interesting to see how Chandler's coverage of Bosh at the top of the key changes if a few of those shots go down.
Danny: There are many reasons Bosh functions well as a center. In this matchup, I think we’ll see how well Bosh can space the floor for the HEAT. One of the main goals in starting Bosh at center was his ability to pull opposing centers out of the paint, thus opening up driving lanes.
Tyson Chandler is one of the two best defensive centers in the NBA and protects the rim as well as anyone. Bosh’s main job tonight will be to pull Chandler out to the perimeter. With Chandler having to respect Bosh’s jumper, other Knicks will be forced to protect the basket. That’s a result that favors the HEAT very strongly. Chandler provides Bosh with a good test to see just how far he can pull defenders away from high traffic areas.4. Mario Chalmers was incredible in the opener against Boston. Is this the beginning of a trend?
Couper: This is one question I don't have an immediate answer to. Chalmers looked very, very good against Boston. So good, in fact, that it took me a full day, and a detailed re-watch of the game, to really digest just how good of a performance it was. Those 11 assists weren't just Chalmers hitting open players for jumpers or reaping the benefits of quick Wade and James drives from the perimeter. He was finding cutters from the top of the key, making pocket-passes in the lane, dribbling into space to draw defenses and bailing out broken possessions with patient pick-and-rolls. Time will tell, but if this is how Chalmers is going to use the HEAT's offensive spacing, that's a major improvement.
Danny: Well, I don’t believe he’ll put up 11 assists and just one turnover every game. But, I do think Chalmers is in for a big year. Last season Chalmers had healthy ankles for the first time in two years and it showed. He shot a career best 38.8 percent from deep and attacked pick-and-rolls more effectively than at any other time in his career.
This season, Chalmers will have more space to operate in and we saw how he utilized it against the Celtics. Chalmers was able to probe and find teammates for easy buckets. When Chalmers wasn’t driving into the heart of the defense, he was passing to HEAT cutters who were attacking the open spaces. I wouldn’t say the Celtics game started a new trend, rather it continued one that started probably in the 2011 playoffs.5. It's early in the season, but is there anything you didn't see in the Boston game you'd like to see tonight?
Couper: This is asking a lot, but I'd like to see how long Miami can sustain their first-quarter pace against Boston, when their possessions were barely scraping the 12-second barrier. Possession totals won't be all that high against the Knicks just because of how New York runs its offense, but as conditioning continues to get better in-season, it will be interesting to see if the HEAT can sustain that relentless pace. If they can, we might be talking about a historically good offense, if we aren't already.
Danny: Offensively, I’m not sure there’s much more to look for. The HEAT could probably afford to cut down on the long twos off the dribble, but that’s nitpicking. They moved the ball, attacked the rim, found open shooters and blew last season’s top defense off the floor.
Defensively, the HEAT can probably tighten up a touch. However, I’m not sure the Knicks will present the same challenges that the Celtics did. If the Knicks ditch their isolation ways, it could be interesting. If they don’t, the HEAT won’t be forced to rotate and react much. Rajon Rondo was able to find some soft spots, but I don’t see anyone on the Knicks really doing the same.