Heat can’t afford another loss to Knicks
MIAMI — Here’s an ideal way for the Heat to put a stop to all these questions about last-second situations.
Blow out the Knicks in Wednesday’s Game 5.
Ever since Sunday’s 89-87 loss at New York, there’s been plenty of talk about why Shane Battier, not LeBron James, was guarding Knicks sharpshooter Carmelo Anthony down the stretch. Anthony hit a key 3-pointer in the final minute as well as one free throw after being fouled by Battier on a three-point attempt to finish with 41 points.
“Every time somebody scores a late-game shot, you guys ask me the same questions,” James said to the media Tuesday. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m only one guy. I only can guard one person.”
And only one guy usually can take a big last-second shot. On Sunday, while James had a hot hand, he was an innocent bystander in the corner when Dwyane Wade fumbled the ball driving down the lane and eventually had to chuck a 3-pointer that clanged off the rim.
“It’s just amusing,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said of the drama that always accompanies whether it will be James or Wade called upon for a last-ditch shot. “You just leave it at that, really. It’s always about winning, it’s not about who takes the last shot.”
True, it would give folks a lot less to tweet about. But the Heat can put aside all that second guessing that coach Erik Spoelstra calls “noise” if they wallop the Knicks on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena to close out the series 4-1.
That’s what should happen. The battered Knicks used what should be their last gasps of energy to end their record 13-game playoff losing streak Sunday.
New York point guard Jeremy Lin is not walking through that door. He has been ruled out for the series due to a knee injury that has sidelined him since March 24.
Baron Davis, who had replaced Lin as the starting point, and guard Iman Shumpert are out for long periods after suffering serious knee injuries in the series. And it remains to be seen how big man Amar’e Stoudemire will look when he returns to the scene of the crime, the arena where after a Game 2 loss he whacked the glass encasing around a fire extinguisher and cut his left hand.
After the injury kept him out of Game 3, Stoudemire returned to have a gutsy 20 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4. But adrenaline no doubt played a role and he’ll be better scouted now, with the Heat likely knowing more about how to take advantage of his wounded wing.
Bosh called it “extremely important” for Miami to close out the series Wednesday. He’s right.
Indiana is waiting to face the Heat after polishing off Orlando on Tuesday to win that series 4-1. With the Pacers already assured of having at least one more day of rest than Miami, the last thing the Heat need is to return to New York for a Game 6. Even if they were to wrap up the series then, they wouldn’t get back until the wee hours of Saturday morning, giving them little time to prepare for a series against Pacers, which likely would begin Sunday.
The Heat can’t afford to take any chances in Game 5. It needs to be a drubbing.
That would keep some wear and tear off their Big Three. Wade tweaked his ankle in Game 4. While it might not be a big deal now, nobody on the Heat wants to risk having added minutes pile up on Wade.
Miami had a chance to finish off the Knicks when the Heat led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter Sunday. But it didn’t happen.
“There were three real opportunities to create some more separation,” Spoelstra said. “Now, that might not have been enough in a game like that. But we had opportunities. You never know what happens when you get (the lead) to 15, 17, close to 20 points, if that starts to chip at their will. But we never could get over that 10- or 11-point barrier to find out.”
If the Heat want to chip away at the Knicks’ resolve, they need only to look back at Game 1. Actually, that was more of a sledgehammering.
The Heat broke open a close game with a 32-2 run that extended a 30-29 second-quarter lead to 62-31 in the third. The final score became a formality, with the Heat winning 100-67.
When it ended, James and Wade had long since gone to the bench. There was no chatter about last-second plays.
Not fun for NBA pundits. But much more enjoyable for the Heat.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson