With a disappointing 100-67 routing by the Miami Heat in Game One of the NBA Playoffs, and the heartbreaking loss of talented defender Iman Shumpert, the Knicks face great challenges in trying to win this series.
Unfortunately, due to the ailments of Tyson Chandler, Jared Jeffries, Baron Davis, and Jeremy Lin, key players on this 2012 Knicks team, facing those challenges will not make things any easier.
But with improved offensive schemes and more emphasis on defensive, the Knicks may just have the chance they need to win.
First and foremost, the Knicks have to increase their energy on the court, while maintaining composure. The Heat showed an excellent display in the balance of intensity and control, as they fought hard for rebounds and steals while laying in elegant basket after basket.
The Knicks seemed to respond with a feverish outbreak, forcing shots and committing poor, unnecessary turnovers. They often tried too hard to rely on the offensive skills of their star, Carmelo Anthony, and less so on intelligent, diversionary team tactics. The clever Heat defense quickly recognized this very early on and adjusted their defense, making getting the ball to Anthony much more difficult. A large number of turnovers came simply from the Knicks trying too hard to give the obvious pass to Anthony for an isolation play.
The Knicks inability to change from this failing offensive scheme led to the ultimate breakdown of the team. The Knicks should focus more on screening their many excellent shooters. A smart strategy might be to run pick-and-pop plays near the three-point line with J.R. Smith, Landry Fields, Mike Bibby, Josh Harrellson, Davis, and especially Steve Novak, the man with the highest three-point shooting percentage in the NBA this season. This would keep the Heat defenders out of the paint, and open things up to allow Anthony and Amare Stoudemire to execute their style of play with more ease, as well as the added benefit of putting a few points on the board with some knocked-down threes. The key for the Knicks' offensive production might be in switching sets as often as possible and to keep the Heat defense on their toes.
The defensive challenges for the Knicks in this series have become monumental, as well. With the loss of key defender Shumpert, a steady defensive output from Fields and Smith is now an absolute necessity. Stoudemire may need to pick up his defensive intensity, something he is more than capable of, but often seems to lack on the floor. It was a grueling sight to see players scoring on Stoudemire as he focused more on getting a block than keeping the opposing player away from the rim. Chandler, the most prolific interior defender on this Knicks team, has to do what it takes to get himself on the court and ready to play. Without his large inside presence, and a seemingly diminished reaction time when he was on the floor due to the flu, the Heat, and especially LeBron James, scored with unopposed ease. While Anthony, Davis, and the rest of the Knicks should continue with their great high energy defense, the team needs to learn to gel, especially off of screens and run-arounds.
With steady improvement on both ends of the floor, New York can erase the embarrassment of Game One.
Luckily for the Knicks, the series is long and has just begun. A renewed Knicks effort will certainly make this series more interesting.