MIAMI -- For three quarters, the Knicks made Heat coach Erik Spoelstra look smart yet stonewalled at the same time.
During Friday morning's shootaround at the American Airlines Arena, Spoelstra said that because Carmelo Anthony was out of the lineup due to injuries, the Knicks would run more "spread pick-and-rolls" and speed up the halfcourt pace to free their 3-point shooters.
The Knicks did just that for most of the game, knocking down three after three, before succumbing to defeat. Spoelstra was able to hinder Amare Stoudemire's ability to score with sometimes three defenders on him in the low post, but he didn't have an answer for closing out on the Knicks' perimeter players.
"We had a couple of breakdowns there at the end of the first quarter, end of the second quarter, where they got two or three open looks," Spoelstra said. "They struck it from there. They got hot."
Hot they did. In the first half, the Knicks shot 10-for-23 from downtown, while the Heat were just 0-for-5. While Stoudemire had limited touches, only finishing with two points at halftime, the double and triple teams he encountered enabled the Knicks to make quicker reads to shooters. Tyson Chandler's presence also helped divert the Heat's attention to the inside. Stoudemire said that when they're able to space the floor like that, it will benefit guys like Landry Fields and Bill Walker who, he said, "thrive in this type of offense."
"In the first half, we just wanted to keep the ball moving. I knew they'd double and triple team me all night," Stoudemire said. "I wasn't able to get my shot off in the first half, but I wasn't too concerned about myself. ... The game was going well for a lot of the other guys out there, so moving the ball was key for us.
"We have to move the ball. It's going to loosen up our offense. They can't guard everyone. They can key on me, that's fine, but we've got four other players on the court, so we've just got to make sure we exploit that."
The traditional Mike D'Antoni "seven seconds or less" offense seemed to reemerge on Friday in Miami. The Knicks' up-tempo style and rapid ball movement, especially the skip pass, were positive takeaways from tonight, even though the Knicks lost. They knew coming in that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade made the Heat a very sharp defensive team that could rotate fast enough into position.
"We were pushing the ball and getting it out quick," said Toney Douglas, who started at point guard for the first time in 12 games. "Once we got inside the defense, they were going to commit and then we kicked it out. We had those opportunities tonight. They are so athletic that we had to move the ball to get them out of position."
The Knicks were able to get the Heat out of position so well that six players took advantage of the open pockets and had at least one 3-pointer: Douglas, Fields, Walker, Iman Shumpert, Mike Bibby and Steve Novak. Walker was the hottest with a career-best seven 3-pointers, which tied the Magic's Ryan Anderson for the most made in a game this season. Anderson, in fact, did it against the Knicks on Jan. 16.
Walker, who tweaked his ankle during the game tonight but said he'll be fine, wanted to come out and just compete, and not think so much as he was doing in the past. He ended up having his best game of the season, finishing with 21 points off the bench.
"He's a tough guy," D'Antoni said. "He's in a good spot right now. I'm glad for him because we need him and he's got to keep improving. He needs to keep working out his body. He could be the outside guy once we get Carmelo back to give us some more scoring."
But, in the end, the Knicks just "ran out of gas," as Douglas called it after the game. While they continued their hot 3-point shooting in the second half, connecting on eight of them, and Stoudemire got going scoring 10 points, the Knicks missed Anthony's facilitating from the perimeter down the stretch to help make plays for the team.
"If we found an extra 15 points, we would've won the game," D'Antoni said.
On the flip side, it was James' 11 points and Wade's eight points in the final period, mostly at the rim, that iced the victory. In fact, for the game, the Heat had 42 points in the paint, compared to the Knicks' 14. A lot of that was due to the Heat's transition game to close out the contest, which speaks to the Knicks' empty fuel tank in the waning minutes. The Heat finished with 20 fastbreak points, compared to the Knicks' seven.
"We had a chance to win," Stoudemire said. "We can't hold our heads down. We have to take the momentum from this tonight, even though we lost, and try to carry it over to tomorrow."
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