LeBron James is the best player in the world, and there is no player that can match what he does or even come close to having the impact on a given game that he has. It is no surprise, then, that there is a drop off when he comes out of the game. However, the reason he joined the Miami Heat was so that he could get the help that he never received with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Miami has two other All-Stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but James has separated himself as the most important player on the team. On Thursday night against the New York Knicks, Miami was +1 with him on the court and -11 with him on the bench. What makes this more alarming is that he was only on the bench for seven minutes.
With Shane Battier out due to a leg injury, Miami was forced to cover Carmelo Anthony with the 6-foot-4 Wade or the defensively-challenged Michael Beasley and Rashard Lewis when James got a break. Those short stints without having LeBron on him got Carmelo in a rhythm as he led the Knicks to a 102-92 victory.
Miami struggled in their rotations with all the shooters New York had on the court, and allowed the Knicks wide-open threes in the second half. They outscored Miami 59-44 in the second half and beat the Heat for the fourth time in their last five games. Beasley was -14 in his nine minutes on the court, most of which came during that run without LeBron in the game.
Most of the Heat’s losses have come to teams that were able to hit 3-pointers because of the way they play defense. Since they trap the ball handler on pick-and-rolls, it forces the defense to scramble and leave one outside shooter open. Without LeBron on the court, it seemed like that shooter was Carmelo and he made Miami pay.
New York continues to be a bad matchup for Miami, and is a team they should hope to avoid in the postseason because of their shooters. Anthony, Andrea Bargnani and Iman Shumpert gives the Knicks a chance to shoot their way into any game … and sometimes out of any game.