Knicks Lose To Heat At Garden

Published on: 26th December, 2009

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DWade
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New York – In what may be a sign of growing respect for the Knicks around the league, one of the better teams, the Miami Heat, came into the Garden today on Christmas Day and defeated the Knicks in a close, physically-taxing game yet much of the post-game conversation veered to how tough and improved the Knicks have become.

It was only because Miami has the great equalizer, Dwyane Wade on their side, that they were able to pull this one out, 93-87 but one thing was for sure, they knew they’d been in a defensive dogfight with the newly confident Knicks, who had won six in a row at home coming into today’s game. 

“I thought our defense was enough to keep us in the game for a long time, without making our shots,” said Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. “Wade was the difference today and is always going to hit some shots. That’s why when you get down to the end and it’s pretty close, you’re risking that he can just take over the game, and he did a little bit today. But, I thought it was our lack of offense that doomed us.” 

Wade had 30 points and nine rebounds, and the Heat spoiled New York’s return to Christmas competition while snapping the Knicks’ three-game winning streak and six-game home winning streak. 

“We’re encouraged by this performance because these Knicks have been playing extremely good basketball,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “They’re playing with a high level of confidence and here at home, where they’ve won six straight. We knew we were in for a tough game.”
 
Could the Knicks be developing a little respect among their rivals, after their 1-9 start to this season? 
 
Despite the loss, the Knicks coach, D’Antoni felt there was some good that came out of playing a close game against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

“We can take something from this loss,” D’Antoni said. “They do play good defense and you’ve got to give them credit but at the same time I really thought we had a lot of wide-open shots that we just missed.  You are going to miss some. But, we had our shots and our defense was good enough to keep us in the game for a long time.”

Michael Beasley, starting to scratch the surface of his vast offensive potential, added 13 of his 19 points after halftime for the Heat, who opened a comfortable lead by limiting New York to 31 points across the middle two quarters. Then Wade provided a series of baskets after the Knicks finally got on track in the final minutes, scoring 10 points in the final 5:47.

“There was a point when I walked out of the huddle our assistant coach, Coach (David) Fizdale said, ‘Take us home,’ and I just had that mentality,” Wade said. “Early in the game I was picking my spots … at that moment, I said it was time for me to be a little bit more aggressive, so I just had that take us home mentality.”

Until then, Miami relied on an uncharacteristically strong defensive effort.  Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that’s the way his team has to play.

“We’re not a team that can come out and spar and see the pace of the game and then get going,” Spoelstra said. “That’s just not our personality. We have to be on edge however we get there, Ray Lewis-style. We have to dictate the energy and tempo of the game from the beginning.”

Danilo Gallinari scored 26 points and David Lee had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks.

D’Antoni said the Knicks’ rare nationally televised game was a chance to send a message about how well they were playing — only the Lakers, Celtics and Cavaliers had better records in December than the 8-3 New York entered with.

Instead, the Knicks shot just 5 of 28 on 3-pointers and finished with a season-low 11 assists. They didn’t play with the offensive flow they’ve been exhibiting over the past 11 games.

“I think we missed a lot of shots that were open shots. We just missed them,” Gallinari said.

The Knicks have been shooting the ball well during the last ten games coming into today’s game. Today, they ran into a Miami team not always known for its defense which has changed it’s personality under its young coach, Spoelstra.
 
“I thought today we came out with a great disposition to start the game defensively,” said Spoelstra. “We were very active, even though we weren’t playing things right. In the second quarter, we put bodies in front of their drives, getting some blocked shots.”

 When you have a superstar like Wade in your lineup, it’s not a bad strategy to try to keep games close going down the stretch and let Wade take it over on his confident shoulders.  It doesn’t hurt a team’s defensive effort when their star player and high scorer drinks the defense-first Kool-Aid. Wade, the scoring machine has developed the understanding of defense as a winning proposition.

“We came into training camp and our coach wanted us to be a defensive team,” Wade said. “He wanted us to have the ability to score, of course but not to rely on that. Scoring the ball is very inconsistent. Defensively, you could give that effort every night. He wants us to be a team that relies on our defense.”

The Knicks may be getting more attention around the league now but they still don’t have the great equalizer, the go-to player who can separate them from being also-rans in this league. So, Miami goes out with a win, the Knicks with more respect.

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