NBA PM: Knicks vs. HEAT Pick’em
The Eastern Conference’s best team is a glaring omission to the Jeremy Lin-era New York Knicks’ resume. Yeah, they’ve beaten a road-weary Los Angeles Lakers squad and a Dallas Mavericks team that’s still struggling to find chemistry with new additions like Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. But Lin and the Knicks haven’t beaten any of the league’s three best: The Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami HEAT.
Thursday, Mike D’Antoni’s team has a chance to prove itself to the league, to itself and, most importantly, to the throngs of New Yorkers who still view the team’s 9-2 surge with a bit of skepticism.
What shouldn’t be viewed suspiciously is the team’s newfound depth. The emergence of Lin meant that Baron Davis was able to make his Knicks debut from the bench rather than having to start. Steve Novak’s hot streak has given D’Antoni some flexibility with his frontcourt and the signing of J.R. Smith has finally provided the team a consistent 3-point threat in the backcourt.
A month ago the Knicks were a team that went just eight or nine players deep. Now, injuries to rookies Iman Shumpert and Josh Harrellson cease to be major obstacles because the team has enough bodies to survive for 48 minutes.
Best of all, the team’s chemistry hasn’t been rocked by the return of Carmelo Anthony from a groin strain. Now, he didn’t look sensational in 37 minutes in Monday’s home loss to the New Jersey Nets (11 points, 4 of 11 from the field, three rebounds, six assists) but he fit in seamlessly during Wednesday’s 99-82 rout of the Atlanta Hawks.
Yes, Anthony still missed half a dozen perimeter shots, but he also made six shots in the paint, which is where he’ll be doing most of his damage if he and Lin can find some rhythm together.
The high pick-and-roll offense the Knicks have relied on recently has yielded more interior shots, but more importantly, it’s given the ball to players whose momentum is going toward the basket. This creates more opportunities from the field and from the line, which is why it’s a relief to see Anthony going along with this trend rather than relying on his perimeter-based isolation plays. Simply put, this is a more-efficient way to play basketball.
Of course, all the chemistry in the world won’t help the Knicks if the HEAT play their usual game.
Miami is tops in the NBA in true shooting percentage (which is weighted for 3s and includes free throws), offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), fifth in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) and fourth in rebounding rate (percentage of missed shots rebounded).
If the HEAT have a weakness, it might be carelessness with the basketball. Miami turns the ball over in more than a quarter of its offensive possessions, which puts the team in the bottom half of the league.
Furthermore, the Knicks recent hot perimeter shooting is particularly dangerous to a HEAT team that’s allowing opponents to hit 36.3% of their 3-point attempts (23rd in the NBA).
Of course, as hot as the Knicks have been, the HEAT are 17-3 over their last 20 for a reason.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are 1 and 2 in the league in Player Efficiency Rating and in James’ case, his 32.59 PER is better than double the league average. James finished both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons with PERs over 31, but if the season ended today, this would likely be seen as his best campaign yet. James’ rebounding rate is up to 13 (second among small forwards) while his assist rate (percentage of possessions that end with an assist) is up to 21, which ranks seventh at the position.
The biggest difference for the HEAT this season has been the way Norris Cole has pushed Mario Chalmers. Now Miami is getting 19.5 PPG (15th in the NBA) from its point guards whereas the team got 15.9 PPG (27th in the NBA) a season ago from the position.
Now it’s time for HOOPSWORLD’s readers to make their pick. In one of the most-anticipated meetings of the regular season, can the Knicks pull off the upset against the HEAT or will Miami prevail at home? Please make your pick in the comments section below.
Morrow Prepares for 3-point Contest
Nets point guard Jordan Farmar said there’s no question who will win the NBA’s 3-point contest in Orlando this weekend. His teammate Deron Williams said there’s an obvious favorite.
Yes, they’re both pumping up their teammate and legendary NBA marksman Anthony Morrow, but that doesn’t make them wrong.
Now in his second season in New Jersey, Morrow has a career 43.91% mark from 3, which is fourth best in NBA history behind Steve Kerr, Hubert Davis and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry. Fifth on that list is former Nets guard Drazen Petrovic, whose jersey Morrow will be wearing during the competition on Saturday night.
But in order to properly honor the late Petrovic, who died in a car crash in 1993, Morrow has to prepare mentally. Obviously he shoots countless 3-pointers every day, but the 3-point contest has some nuances that Morrow is cognizant of.
That’s why Morrow has already decided that he’ll line up to the left on the rack because, as he said, “I like shooting from that side.”
He hasn’t been watching any old 3-point contests yet, but he plans to over the next day or so.
He also spent some time talking to former participant Allan Houston and two-time 3-point contest winner Mark Price.
“One thing I talked to Allan Houston (about) was like he tried to not use his legs and it messed him up,” Morrow told HOOPSWORLD.
Price told Morrow to shoot his “normal shot” and if he gets “tired, just get more focused.”
Morrow admits he doesn’t get much elevation when he jumps for his shot, but says he’s focusing on getting his legs into each and every attempt. He also said he’s not going to treat the money ball (which is worth two points as opposed to one) any differently because, “You already know it’s a money ball, you don’t have to show it to everybody.”
Morrow will be up against 3-point marksmen like Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson and James Jones on Saturday.
(It’s a little self-serving, but if you want to know more about Anthony Morrow’s story, here’s an article I did on him last season for The Wall Street Journal. It was written just as he was about to qualify for the NBA’s 3-point percentage record).
Check Out: Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst put together an interesting piece on the first time LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony squared off.
10 years after the two high schoolers played against each other, James and Anthony are set to do battle once again, and from what Windhorst wrote, you can tell they each expected to be in this position.
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