Here are three quick hits from the first half of the Knicks-Heat game:
1.) INTENSE ... BUT A BIT CARELESS
The Knicks matched the Heat's high energy level in the first quarter, evident in their six offensive rebounds and six second-chance points, compared to the Heat's only one rebound (and two second-chance points). Landry Fields' effort around the rim (three offensive boards in the first period) was especially impressive. He had six points in the first half.
But the Knicks' aggressiveness was a little too reckless. In fact, a usually overly communicative, but not confrontational Mike D'Antoni, was called for a technical foul in the first quarter. On the personnel side, Jeremy Lin (only two points) had six turnovers and Amare Stoudemire also had six in the first half. That heated up the Heat's potent transition attack, featuring LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The team had 12 fastbreak points in the first half, compared to the Knicks' one.
Give a lot of credit to the Heat's pick-and-roll defense, arguably the best in the business. Not only do the Heat have quick defensive perimeter players (James, Wade and Mario Chalmers), but Joel Anthony is a center who moves in every direction like a crab. The Heat have a defensive system that thrives on airtight rotations and aggressively disrupting the pick-and-roll ball-handler, according to my colleague Tom Haberstroh, who covers the team for ESPN.com's Heat Index.
2.) STAT IS BACK!
In the first Knicks-Heat matchup on Jan. 27 in Miami, Stoudemire was neutralized. He only scored 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting. That was mainly due to the fact the Knicks didn't have Lin (benched) or Anthony (injury). Being that the Knicks have more options tonight, the Heat have more to worry about. Stoudemire took advantage of the open looks and spacing, finishing the first half with a team-high 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. STAT even had a steal in the first quarter and he single-handedly led the team's fastbreak before getting fouled on a dunk attempt. He hit both free throws.
3.) THE BACKUPS BRING IT
After Wednesday night's win over the Hawks, D'Antoni said that with Baron Davis in the second unit, there should be no drop-off in consistency from the starting five. That showed tonight. When Davis checked into the game, the Knicks erased their deficit and took over the lead, temporarily, thanks to Davis' penetration and passing, which led to ball movement and finding Steve Novak (a.k.a. Novacaine) from his favorite place: the baseline corner. He was a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown in the first half (nine points).
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