GAME 4 EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1: Knicks vs. Heat 3:30 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: Friday and Saturday proved to be crucial practice days for the Knicks as they face a 3-0 series deficit. Amar’e Stoudemire returned to work on Friday with a heavily bandaged left hand and he is listed as “doubtful” for Sunday. Interim head coach Mike Woodson told reporters that he would be a gametime decision. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin is officially out for Game 4 after the point guard felt soreness in his surgically repaired knee following a scrimmage session on Wednesday. With Iman Shumpert, Lin, and possibly Stoudemire sidelined, Woodson will be forced to make a decision with his starting five. The head man will either place sharpshooter Steve Novak at the small forward spot for the second straight game or place sixth man J.R. Smith in the starting lineup to add an offensive pop to the unit.
Miami: The Heat spent their off days at the Garden preparing for a close-out game on Sunday afternoon. After three contests in the postseason, Miami’s roster is unscathed and healthy heading into Game 4.
Series at a Glance:
Game 3 – Miami 87 New York 70: Despite a four-point lead at halftime and a raucous home crowd, the Knicks could not take snatch a win at MSG on Thursday night. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 34 points in the second half and Mario Chalmers hit big buckets from downtown throughout the final period to give the Heat a solid 77-62 advantage with less than six minutes on the game clock. Carmelo Anthony finished with a team-high 22 points, Tyson Chandler registered a double-double, and Smith scored 12 off the bench in the 87-70 Game 3 loss.
Game 2 – Miami 104 New York 94: The Knicks made a couple of runs in the second half and even cut the lead to just five points after Baron Davis connected on a 3-pointer at the 3:36 mark of the third quarter. Just when New York seemed to gain momentum, James, Wade, and even Mario Chalmers hit timely shots to keep the Heat’s advantage hovering around double digit points. Miami’s balanced attack of Wade, Chris Bosh, and James combined for 65 points. New York’s Big Three of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler combined for 61 points. The Heat shot 52.1 percent from the floor while the Knicks hit 49.4 percent in the 104-94 Game 2 defeat.
Game 1 – Miami 100 New York 67: The Heat exploded on a 22-2 run while outscoring the Knicks 30-13 in the second quarter to take a commanding 54-31 lead at halftime. 16 New York turnovers in the first 24 minutes of the contest plagued the team in its attempt to steal a game in a hostile environment. James scored 23 of his game-high 32 points in the first half to help secure a dominant 100-67 win at home. Anthony was held to 11 points and Stoudemire posted nine in the defeat.
The Numbers Game
Anthony has logged some major minutes in this series, posting 121:39 over the last three games. That's the most of any player in this first round matchup with James in second at 108:06.
Match-up to Watch
Carmelo Anthony vs. LeBron James
The Knicks need their star to rise in an elimination situation on Sunday. Miami has thrown the kitchen sink at Anthony throughout the series by fronting him in Game 1, doubling in Game 2, and Shane Battier and James took turn harassing the All-Star in Game 3. Anthony explained to reporters on Saturday that he simply needs to make shots. New York will rely on its forward to score in an efficient manner and more importantly, penetrate the Heat’s stifling defense and find open shooters on the perimeter. Additionally, the Knicks will count on Anthony to defend the likely MVP of the league. James exploded for 17 points in the fourth quarter to lift Miami to a Game 3 victory on Thursday. Anthony must limit James’ impact in the open floor and force him into foul trouble as seen in the previous content when he picked up his fourth foul late in the third period.
What to Look For
At Saturday’s media availability, Anthony, Chandler, and Woodson reiterated the point that the team’s defensive is far ahead of the offensive production. Against one of the top defensive squads in the NBA, New York will search for scoring opportunities and will look to create space for Novak to launch game-changing long bombs. The Knicks felt they were too focused on side of the floor and they failed to swing the rock around the perimeter to make Miami rotate and challenge shooters. If New York can increase its offensive efficiency, outscore the Heat in the paint, and receive big performances from Smith and Novak, the team will have a shot at extending the series to a Game 5 on the Heat’s home floor.