As ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh reported earlier, the Miami Heat will not have three key players in Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and reigning MVP LeBron James for tonight’s rivalry game against the hard-charging New York Knicks. While New York’s players may be breathing a sigh of relief at this news, the last thing they can afford to believe is that a ninth consecutive victory will be handed to them on a silver platter.
As we saw on March 31, the Heat managed to defeat an incredibly deep and talented squad in the San Antonio Spurs, and also kept the game close. Even without the three aforementioned players, big man Chris Bosh was more than enough to bring home the victory.
It is for this exact reason that the Knicks cannot afford to treat this game as a throwaway contest. If anything, they need to play twice as hard as they would in a regular game.
This means that head coach Mike Woodson‘s isolation game and tough defensive attack need to be in full force. When Shane Battier is being guarded, it has to be as though James himself is the one that needs to be stopped.
Offensively, it means that everyone must know their role and not start playing street ball. Point guard Raymond Felton cannot suddenly get trigger happy with his shot, and sixth man J.R. Smith must continue to show off his versatile attack and not just be a shooter and dunker.
Most important of all, this game’s circumstances are not an excuse for the entire Knicks team to rely on star player and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony to carry the load. Basketball is a team game, and victory is near-impossible if the offense proves to be a one-trick pony.
So long as New York can adopt that attitude, a ninth-straight win can be accomplished. Otherwise, this game could go down as one of the worst losses of the season.