Tommy DeeAs strong as the Knicks’ first half performance was, one that had a pouty Mike Wilbon conceding victory during ESPN’s halftime show, their fourth quarter was a series of breakdowns on both sides of the floor. Their execution, defensive rotations and overall decision making were loose, at best, and they allowed Miami to outperform and out execute them letting a winnable game slip away.
There were moments in the second half, like the Jason Kidd steal and pass to JR Smith for a transition three that seemed the appropriate counter punch to Miami’s burst post intermission. It was all for not though, as it was Lebron James’ mission to play his best on the game’s biggest stage in every single aspect of the contest that was the difference.
Lebron blocked shots, he had put backs, he made step-back jumpers and he attacked the passing lanes. What that was, to me, was a performance that left Steph Curry’s shooting barrage the other night a distant second. James broke the fans of the Knicks fans heart in the same way he did in July 2010. Check that, this performance was of courage- that was of the act of a coward.
Today was heartbreaking nonetheless.
But, to me, the biggest disappointment today was Mike Woodson’s coaching down the stretch. Sure, JR Smith should shoulder his share of the blame for his weak shot selection and even weaker cross court passes- passes that James sniffed out before Smith even turned to throw them. Turnovers and transition baskets are what Miami does better than any team, maybe ever, in the history of the league. In the first two meetings, the Knicks managed to protect the ball and keep Miami from capitalizing. Today was a different story.
There was Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler complaining about calls and not getting back on defense, leading to easy Miami baskets. Smith’s miss on a pull up from 3 after the Knicks got a stop on a James miss trailing 93-91 with 1:45 to go leading to a James attack to the left block and finish finished the Knicks. It was a poor choice at the wrong time and how Carmelo Anthony doesn’t get a touch there is absolutely Woodson’s fault. That situation is where coaches earn their money and where team win games in the 4th quarter. That situation is where a Doc Rivers (ahem Phil Jackson) gets the ball in the hands of Jordan, Bryant, or the Paul Pierce. That ball would find Reggie Miller’s hands off of a Larry Brown play call and you can bet Pop would make sure Duncan would have his hands on it. That’s the situation where Erik Spoelstra gets the ball to James and where Pat Riley got the ball to Magic or Ewing.
You simply have to find ways as a coach to get one of the game’s stars a touch there. And Woodson failed. Period.
How Anthony can manage just 1 field goal attempt and zero points the last 6:50 minutes of the game is inexcusable. How Amar’e Stoudemire is not put back in the game after being pulled with 7:56 to play for added offense is also head scratching.
The Knicks can play with Miami. They are built to. But they have to execute in critical situations and exhibit the right decision making and that responsibility rests on the shoulders of the coach. Situations have to be practiced and perfected or else mistakes will continue to happen.
Situation number one is to make sure your star is in a position to do what he does best when the game is on the line. Anything else is unacceptable.