“The Knicks were built to beat the Miami Heat,” someone said on ESPN before the start of yesterday’s New York-Miami match. Yes, well that was then, earlier in the season, and this is now, as the Knicks lick their wounds and try to recover from the psychological shock of blowing a 16-point second quarter lead at the Garden.
As you probably know, the Knicks held a 59-45 lead at the half, but the third and fourth periods were men-against-boys thrashings which have to cause coaches and teams to doubt themselves. The heat won both the last two periods by 10 points, and for the Knicks watching that lead evaporate was like watching water go downhill.
What happened, exactly? Well, the obvious first: LeBron James had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists while Dwyane Wade had 20-8-8. And Shane Battier hit on all four of his three-point attempts, canceling out an amazing first half by Jason Kidd, who hit on all four of his three-point attempts. (Kidd was scoring on slightly less than 25 percent of his three-point attempts through January and February.)
Are there other explanations I hopped in the car to run some errands right after the game, and no sooner did I hit the ignition than the radio talk shows were buzzing about the Knicks “collapse” and how coach Mike Woodson caused the disaster by sitting Amar’e Stoudemire over the last eight minutes because, as Woodson said, “I decided that it was the best way to deal with the smaller [and presumably faster] lineup Miami was going with.”
Umm … I don’t know. The Heat outscored the Knicks 16-11 when Amar’e was out, but it really look much to me like it made any difference who was in there. Myself, I would not have tolerated as many three-point shots from J.R. Smith (just 3 of 14) while the Heat were furiously overtaking the Knicks.
But I wouldn’t exactly call Miami’s victory New York’s “collapse.” The Heat’s win had more to do with clamping down on Carmelo Anthony, who looked like he was headed for a monster game in the first half, scoring 24 points, but who was held to just four points in both of the final periods.
The Knicks and their fans can spin their wheels talking about what they should have done differently, but the psychological damage from losing a game in which they were ahead by 16 points at home has got to be devastating. I think in retrospect we will look back at the Knicks’ 2012-2013 season and see the second period of Sunday’s game as the high point.