Unfortunately for the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony isn’t the issue
The Knicks' 100-67 to the Miami Heat on Saturday was less a basketball game than a collection of the worst-case scenarios for every single member of the Knicks, stuffed into several hours of national television time.
Really, take your pick: Carmelo Anthony's 3-for-15 shooting? The complete disappearance of Amar'e Stoudemire? A flu-ridden and completely ineffective Tyson Chandler, with zero points and seven turnovers?
And that's just the starting frontline.
The really frightening part about Game 1 and its aftermath isn't how lopsided the score was. After all, it's still only one game, giving Miami 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven series after holding serve at home.
The Knicks' real problem is figuring out how to put together a team capable of playing the Heat tougher in Monday night's Game 2, and in Game 3 in New York.
It's possible Carmelo Anthony's 3-for-15 was simply an inexplicable bad game. Yes, LeBron James played effective defense against him, but Anthony managed to get plenty of good shots that simply didn't fall. It was similar to his Game 1 against the Celtics in last year's playoffs, when he shot 5-for-18. He followed that with a 42 point performance in Game 2.
It's also possible that the Knicks can make adjustments that will enable them to find Amar'e Stoudemire. It wasn't that Stoudemire performed poorly with the ball in Game 1; it was that Stoudemire barely saw the ball, period, after a couple of early baskets.
The problem is everyone else.
Chandler, for example, is ill. He was strapped to an IV after Game 1, and coach Mike Woodson said it would be "a miracle" if he could play in Game 2. As has been shown time and again, New York's defense is reliant upon Chandler. Yet if making an effort to play Monday would compromise Chandler for Thursday, the team may well assign him to stay home and drink lots of fluids.
A lot of the defensive capability that didn't come from Chandler was represented by the perimeter defending of Iman Shumpert. But Shumpert won't play in this series, or for another 6-8 months, after suffering a season-ending knee injury on Saturday. Without Shumpert, the job of defending Dwayne Wade should fall to J.R. Smith. Fortunately for the Knicks, Smith was the one player who performed essentially as he had all season on Saturday. For a guy with the reputation for being inconsistent, it is kind of awe-inspiring to see how impervious he is to game, situation or shot clock when he makes decisions. His defense is solid, though he's no Iman Shumpert.
As for a replacement for Chandler, the Knicks do employ a strong defensive backup in Jared Jeffries. He's hurt, too. He played only eight minutes on Saturday, and his knee injury, which kept him out of the final five games of the season while limiting him for weeks before that, is causing him a great deal of pain. The chances he can give New York much more than those eight minutes are quite small.
Then there's Baron Davis, the team's only viable point guard, who carried New York in a spirited first quarter Saturday ... then collided with Wade and saw his back injury, one that kept him out of action for nearly a year, act up again. Davis is a game-time decision for Game 2.
Jeremy Lin played one-on-one against an assistant coach on Saturday, raising hopes that he could return in time to take part in the Heat series. But soreness in his knee, which was operated on early this month and has kept him out of action ever since, means that he's unlikely to come back before Game 4.
So, to recap: The Knicks will be playing the Heat Monday night, even if Stoudemire and Anthony return to form, without a real center, point guard, interior defense or perimeter stopper.
As Woodson noted yesterday, that's just how it goes sometimes: "You take the hand that’s dealt you and you play it,” he said.
Knicks fans will have to hope that by Thursday, his hand will include a Chandler who is over his illness and a Davis whose back has stopped refusing to cooperate. Then maybe he and the Knicks will be in a position to make the Heat break a sweat.