Matt’s Minute


Last Sunday, after leading by as much as 16 points, the New York Knicks suffered a disappointing loss to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.  However, don’t fret Knicks fans: as disheartening as it was to blow a sixteen point lead, there are actually many positives to take out of the game.  In fact, I surprisingly feel better about the Knicks’ playoff chances after witnessing their defeat.

One encouraging sign was the revitalization of Jason Kidd.  His field goal and three-point percentages have decreased each month since February; basically, he was in the midst of the worst shooting slump of his career until Sunday’s game.  Against the Heat, he was able to bury four threes in five attempts.  At this point in his career, Kidd’s importance is not defined by numbers, but rather by his leadership and intangibles.  Nevertheless, his surprising success from three-point range early in the season played a big part in allowing the Knicks to space the floor, creating more room for players like Carmelo Anthony to operate.  The Knicks, as a team, have struggled from three-point range for a while now, dropping from a torrid 42 percent earlier in the year to just over 30 percent now.  As a result, their ability to create space has deteriorated to the point where a large portion of their offense features strictly isolation basketball from Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith.  Hopefully, Kidd’s reemergence as an outside threat will return the offense to the cohesive, well-oiled three-point machine that we had the pleasure to witness in November and December.

Another signal from Sunday’s game that indicates the Knicks’ resurgence was their defense. For stretches during this game, especially during the second quarter, the defense swarmed the Heat players’ every possession and did a great job of forcing turnovers, very reminiscent of their amazing defense during November. There is still much room for improvement, since the Knicks did allow many easy Heat lay-ups and put-backs due to a lack of hustle.  The brief glimpses of tenacious defense, however, give me hope that the Knicks might finally be turning a corner in terms of their intensity and commitment to play at both ends of the court.

We should keep in mind that LeBron, Dwayne Wade and the Heat are playing out of their minds at the moment, having won their 14th contest in a row.  The fact that a struggling Knicks team was able to outplay this behemoth for a good portion of the game is cause for hope. At this point, the Knicks’ worst enemy is themselves.  For a few possessions (and this has plagued the Knicks for a while), the Knicks players thought it more important to complain to the refs than hustle back on defense, leading to easy Heat dunks.  If the Knicks can improve their attitude like they seem to be refining their offensive cohesion and defensive intensity, then who knows: The Knicks might just have a slim chance at dethroning the mighty Heat come June.