• From the start, Carmelo Anthony got off with what was soft on the ball man to man, and no real backing scheme to defend him. The Heat do this at times, to force a team to play more isolation ball. Carmelo Anthony took advantage, and the Heat couldn’t keep him off the free throw line as they fouled, mostly by getting out of position on the initial catch, and good aggressive drives by Anthony. Even then, the Heat led 23-22 after the 1st quarter.
• In the second, the Heat adjusted their scheme for the Knicks second unit, and New York’s ball movement greatly improved. This was just, very good execution, and it wasn’t from what you would expect. It wasn’t dribble drive penetration and the kickout for three. It was simple sharp perimeter passing, and good shooting. Jason Kidd’s 4-4 shooting on threes in the first half was big (he was 4 of 40 coming into the game), mainly due to all of them being relief buckets because at that time, the Heat was gaining a stop with every score. When the Heat begin to match stops with scores, is when you see those inflated 15-2 runs. Kidd’s threes quelled all of that action.
• For the Heat’s part, offensive execution lacked, and they missed 3 layups after executing initial offense very well. The Heat in essence had only Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Ray Allen executing at a high level. Lebron James was non-existent after absorbing some fouls that were not called (He heated up considerably thereafter). When the Heat’s offense shifted focus to James, and the high pick & roll, it faltered, the Knicks won some 50/50 balls, and hit shots. Voila, 14 point lead. It really is that easy.
• From the start of the second half, things changed. Heat flexed their defensive muscles, and got in the Knicks collective faces. That disposition is what wins against good teams. Dis-interested defense and terrible execution doesn’t. This Heat team is capable of flipping that switch, and they sure flipped it to start the second half. Key moment for the Heat was the first substitution of the second half. The combination of Ray Allen, Lebron James and Shane Battier has been one of the most fruitful for the Heat as of late.
• The Heat’s execution in the 4th quarter was as sharp as it has been in weeks. Gone were the soft screens and lazy offense. The focus sharpened, and the result followed. A very subtle change that Coach Erik Spoelstra employed, was to scrap the side pick and roll action, and run their motion sets, with plenty of UCLA cuts that forced often Knick switches. This game goes to the advance scouting staff that figured out Woodson’s penchant for calling switches when cross matches are possible. Spoelstra forced them with the offense he called, and the Heat reaped the benefits. This was pretty heady stuff, to do something you are not accustomed to, and have the confidence to see it through.
• Lebron James is going to get the credit for his heroics, but the real players of this game were Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier who both had very smart and effective efforts. The Miami Heat learned a lot about this Knicks team in this game, namely that Coach Woodson has not changed his tactics from his Hawks days. When you have the talent that Coach Spo has, it makes it very easy to look good as the “genius” coach. it also helps that Lebron James seems to have Carmelo Anthony’s number one on one. Carmelo Anthony shot 3-11 with Lebron on him in this game, and that was enough for the impressive road win. 14 in a row.
The Heat is in Minnesota on Monday night, Tipoff is at 8:00 pm.