The New York Knicks finished off their season series with the Miami Heat with an exclamation point. Though the Heat were decidedly short-handed with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers sitting the game out, the two teams battled for the better part of four quarters before the Knicks, through some stern defense and heroic offense from Carmelo Anthony, put the game away. ‘Melo dropped in a defiant, irrepressible 50 points to carry the Knicks to the victory, taking the season series with the Heat, 3-1.
After a first half in which the Knicks struggled to contain Miami’s dribble penetration, the Knicks locked down in the second half and allowed just 32 combined points. Intense trapping and notably crisper rotations stifled Miami’s offense on the perimeter, and the outside looks they created so fluidly in the first half stopped falling. Inside, the Knicks denied the Heat at almost every opportunity, intentionally clobbering anybody within arm’s reach of the basket. On offense, the Knicks relied on a heavy serving of Carmelo Anthony’s own majesty, but Raymond Felton, Kenyon Martin, and J.R. Smith all came up with key contributions in the fourth quarter to build the Knicks lead.
Winners of nine in a row, the Knicks moved a step closer to securing the Atlantic Division and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s a look at the individual performances with player report cards:
Carmelo Anthony – 40 minutes, 50 points, 18-26 FG, 7-10 3FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Officially the most venomous offensive output we’ve gotten from Anthony in a Knicks uniform. The career-high-tying performance was the first time ‘Melo has reached 50 since coming to the Knicks, and frankly, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Though the performance would’ve been almost too sweet against a fully-armed Heat team, the Knicks needed every one of ‘Melo’s baskets to repress a Heat lineup that recently beat the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio.
The amazing part of Anthony’s performance is not a single point came within the paint, and he only managed eight free throw attempts despite Miami’s physical defense. After initially torching the Heat off the catch, Anthony was forced to create for himself a bit more, but even still, these attempts off the bounce were almost all in the form of pull-up jumpers over draping defenders. That assist tally is also skewed as Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony often failed to capitalize on the open looks Anthony created for them after evading a double team. One, perhaps momentum-turning assist, though, came at the end of the third quarter, as ‘Melo slashed into the lane off the dribble, pulled in the Heat’s defense, and kicked it out to an open Steve Novak, who drained the corner three to beat the buzzer. Simply excellent stuff all around from Anthony tonight.
Final Grade: A+
J.R. Smith – 30 minutes, 14 points, 5-15 FG, 2-3 3FG, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Smith’s basket-bound ways were oddly halted tonight as he seemed stooped by his inability to break down the Heat off the dribble. The likes of Mike Miller and Ray Allen wouldn’t seem like the combination to defy Smith’s work off the dribble, but they prevented his penetration a good amount, and when Smith did get into the paint, he was blocked by any number of the Heat’s big men. Smith’s jumper wasn’t wholly reliable, either, but his late fourth quarter three put the Knicks up 11 with less than two remaining, and acted as the essential dagger. Not exactly what we’ve gotten used to over the past two weeks, but good enough tonight.
Final Grade: C+
Raymond Felton – 38 minutes, 10 points, 4-9 FG, 9 assists, 1 steal, 4 TOs
Felton struggled mightily in the first half to escape Miami’s traps in the pick-and-roll, and he killed the Knicks with some in-and-out three-pointers off nice ball movement. Furthermore, Felton’s inability to stick with any of Miami’s guards – regardless of age, size, or quickness, killed the Knicks’ perimeter D (though he wasn’t the only offender). In the second half, however, Felton did an admirable job containing Norris Cole on the perimeter, fighting over screens, or scurrying out to shooters on rotations and switches. He also broke down Miami’s pick-and-roll trapping by splitting the defense a number of times, getting to the basket, and setting up teammates. In the fourth quarter, Felton nailed two important step-back jumpers to slowly build the Knicks’ lead, and eventually bury the Heat.
Final Grade: B-
Kenyon Martin – 24 minutes, 9 points, 4-7 FG, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 PFs
Martin was removed from the starting lineup with Tyson Chandler’s return, but still played around the same amount of time as he’d been seeing as the de facto center. Martin played a part in the physical, blanketing defense in the second half, and he also had some nice finishes – a JAM in Chris Andersen’s face and a baby-hook – to buoy the Knicks offense when it wasn’t going through ‘Melo. As the Knicks get a little healthier, it’ll be interesting to see if Martin remains coming off the bench, or moves to the four in the starting lineup alongside Chandler.
Final Grade: B
Iman Shumpert – 23 minutes, 9 points, 3-5 3FG, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Shumpert didn’t see a ton of time when the Knicks could’ve used a solid perimeter defender, oddly, and he didn’t really play much of a part in the turn-around in the second half. Shump’s contributions were almost solely on the offensive end, and those were solely from downtown, as he canned his first three looks from beyond the arc. Though he didn’t do much after that a three-pointer early in the third quarter, all three of his makes were important in keeping the Knicks in the game and withstanding a Miami run.
Final Grade: C+
Steve Novak – 13 minutes, 3 points, 1-2 FG
Hacked Chris Andersen under the basket, and nailed the aforementioned buzzer-beating three in the third quarter. That was about it, but they were nice second half contributions. He’s now made a three-pointer in each of the last eight games.
Final Grade: C
Chris Copeland – 7 minutes, 3 points, 1-2 FG, 1 rebound
Copeland had a nice and-one baseline drive in the first half, and that was pretty much it. Copeland figures to lose minutes with Chandler back, Martin coming off the bench, and Camby still looming around the bench.
Final Grade: C
Pablo Prigioni – 13 minutes, 3 points, 1-1 FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal
Prigioni also struggled early on with Miami’s aggressive pick-and-roll defense, though he contributed to some nice ball movement that led to shots that just didn’t fall. He had a couple of other nice moments drawing charges/offensive fouls, and regaining possession by stealing the ball from Norris Cole after Pablo turned it over, racing down court, ignoring a numbers advantage, and nailing a decidedly badass pull-up three. He didn’t get off the bench again after he was subbed out early in the third quarter.
Final Grade: B
Tyson Chandler – 24 minutes, 1 point, 0-2 FG, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 3 TOs
Chandler’s first game back from a bulging disc in his neck was mostly forgettable. He had little elevation when he jumped, and he stumbled and fumbled his way around the basket on offense. On defense, his effect was mostly mitigated by Chris Bosh’s ability to pull him away from the paint and eliminate Chandler’s defensive directing. One violent, come-from-behind swat on a Bosh layup attempt made up for all prior wrong-doings.
Final Grade: C+
Jason Kidd – 27 minutes, 0-2 FG, 0 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
27 minutes is a lot of playing time for a guy that couldn’t hit his shots and couldn’t really stay in front of Miami’s guards, though, like everyone else, he did better in the second half. Some of Kidd’s minutes might have better gone to Prigioni, but as usual, Kidd always has an effect on the offense or defense that doesn’t show up in the box score, and it probably played a part in the Knicks’ ultimate success.
Final Grade: C-
Follow Scott Davis on Twitter: @WScottDavis