The Knicks are for real. There ain’t no more to it. Coming off a tough win in Charlotte and playing without their superstar, the Knicks pounded the defending champion Heat in Miami last night.
Shortly before game time there was a lot of talk about how last Thursday on TNT the Heat played a Spurs team without Duncan, Parker and Ginobili (which cost San Antonio $250,000) and now they were playing the Knicks without Melo. Well, the Heat narrowly won that game to the Spurs. Last night they got smoked by the Knicks. In between they lost an embarrassing game to the Wizards. Any time you can drop the defending champions into the First Take-talk radio deep fryer like the Knicks did last night, you’ve got to feel good.
Raymond Felton was the second-best player on the court, better than Dwyane Wade (a complete no-show) and better than Chris Bosh. He absolutely abused Udonis Haslem on switches. He played so well Spoelstra put LeBron on him. He played so well he finished with 27 points, seven assists and only three turnovers. He played so well he propelled the Knicks to victory, carrying them in the early going, until their three-point shooting (his included) took over.
The Knicks took more than forty threes last night (they were 18-44 for 40.9%), which means they’ve taken 85 in the last two games. I’m not sure if that’s a record. But other than a few that stand out, they’re open looks created by excellent ball movement. When you’ve got as many guys capable of knocking them down as the Knicks do, I’m not sure why you’d want them to do anything other than put them up. Some nights, like against Charlotte, they won’t be timely. Other nights they will be. Against Miami it was the latter. And when good shooting is combined with a strong, well-executed commitment to taking care of the ball (only seven turnovers last night), that’s a winning formula.
That’s two wins in two tries against the Heat. Maybe this one makes us reevaluate the meaning of the first win, which was attributed to some combination of the Heat going out the night before and Hurricane Sandy-induced traffic. Maybe some people think this one is all about what’s wrong with the Miami Heat (and there are things - effort, defense, the one-dimensionality of a lot of their players.) But to me, this win is all about what the Knicks have become - a proud team that plays hard. Last night was a game the Knicks were supposed to lose and instead their supporting cast lit up South Beach and put the Heat on their back. I’d call that the first knockdown in what feels like it’s going to be a war from here on out.
Very exciting stuff.