GAME 5 EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1: Knicks @ Heat 7 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: In the midst of a roller coaster season filled with major injuries to key players, the Knicks could not catch a break and that theme continued in Game 4. Just as New York fought back in the third quarter of Sunday’s elimination contest, Baron Davis crumbled to the court while racing down the floor on a fast break opportunity. The veteran point guard was carried off the hardwood on a stretcher and did not return. On Monday afternoon, the team announced an MRI on Davis’ right knee revealed a partial tear of the patella tendon, and complete tears of the ACL and MCL. Davis is expected to have surgery later this week and his recovery time is approximately 12 months. The Knicks are now extremely thin at the point guard position without Jeremy Lin, who was ruled out for the rest of the series on Tuesday by interim head coach Mike Woodson. Most likely, Mike Bibby and J.R. Smith will share duties at the signal caller spot along with Carmelo Anthony at the point forward position. Woodson said he will consider utilizing Toney Douglas off the bench but the head man has not made final decisions on the rotation. Amar’e Stoudemire returned to action on Sunday and he expects to be a factor for Game 5 in Miami despite the heavily bandaged left hand.
Miami: The Heat traveled back to Miami following the loss and will prepare for another elimination game on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Heading into Game 5, the Heat feature a completely healthy roster aside from Dwyane Wade’s dislocated left index finger that has been taped since the start of the first round series.
Series at a Glance:
Game 4 – New York 89 Miami 87: The Knicks staved off elimination on Sunday afternoon by launching a 15-1 run in the third quarter and rallying after Davis’ gruesome knee injury. After LeBron James sunk a 3-pointer to tie the game at 84-84, Anthony answered with a long bomb over the outstretched arms of Shane Battier to give New York an 87-84 lead. Anthony was nipped on the elbow by Battier on the flowing possession and he connected on 1-of-3 free throws. James then hit a circus left-handed layup off glass and was fouled on the play. Miami’s All-Star completed the old fashioned 3-point play to narrow the Knicks lead to 88-87. Stoudemire made 1-of-2 shots at the charity stripe after the Heat was forced to stop the clock. A last second 3-point attempt from Wade in the corner was effectively defended by Landry Fields and New York celebrated a Game 4 victory at MSG.
Game 3 – Miami 87 New York 70: Despite a four-point lead at halftime and a raucous home crowd, the Knicks could not 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. 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
While the Knicks bench wasn’t exactly explosive, they were effective in Sunday’s crucial Game 4 win. Smith, Bibby, Josh Harrellson, and Steve Novak combined for 20 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists. The second unit crew outplayed Miami’s group that only accounted for nine points, 13 rebounds, and five assists.
Match-up to Watch
Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Chris Bosh
Basically playing with one hand, Stoudemire elevated his game with the Knicks facing a win or go home situation. The big man was limited in terms of his ability to work in isolation sets, shoot deep perimeter jumpers, and take defenders off the dribble. However, Stoudemire set the tone early with high voltage intensity and a relentless attack for buckets in the paint. During the critical third quarter stretch, the power forward scored nine of his 20 points, combining his powers with Anthony to ignite the New York offense. His productivity and activity is absolutely necessary in Wednesday’s Game 5 tilt. What’s remarkable about Stoudemire’s performance on Sunday was the fact he outplayed Chris Bosh. The forward / center has been relatively quiet through the first four games. Chandler deserves a ton of credit for limiting Bosh’s impact as the X-Factor in Miami’s offense that is mostly dominated by James and Wade. While Stoudemire and Bosh will not necessarily face each other on every possession, these two players could determine the outcome in Wednesday’s showdown in downtown Miami.
What to Look For
This 2011-12 Knicks squad has faced extreme adversity the entire season. Wednesday will prove to be their biggest challenge – on the road, in a close out game, and without Davis, Lin, and Shumpert. There is no doubt that Miami will seek a big lead early in the contest and attempt to fire up the home crowd. Both teams have struggled throughout the series to find an offensive rhythm. In fact, New York is averaging 17 points less than its season average while battling a stifling Heat defense. The Knicks have managed to match Miami on the defensive side of the floor but the road team will need to muster at least 90 points to steal a win at AmericanAirlines Arena. If Anthony can duplicate his incredible performance from Game 4 and Stoudemire and the bench can generate second chance points and timely 3-pointers, the Knicks will suddenly place the Heat back on Miami.