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Playoff Prospectus (05/01)

May 1, 2012
Playoff Prospectus
Puncher's Chance

by Dan Feldman

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at Miami 104, New York 94 (Miami leads 2-0)
Pace: 82.7
Offensive Ratings: Miami 126.1, New York 113.4

The Knicks eliminated their biggest problem from Game 1--turning the ball over too often and, subsequently, giving the Heat easy baskets against an unset defense--in Game 2.

It didn't matter.

In a game played much more in the half court, Miami moved the ball extremely well--effectively mimicking the creation of open looks its up-tempo offense generates. The Heat assisted 28 of its 38 field goals with several players passing effectively--Mario Chalmers (six assists), Dwyane Wade (four assists), Chris Bosh (four assists) and Mike Miller (four assists) each did their part.

LeBron James (nine assists), though, led the way. A phenomenal fast-break passer and finisher, LeBron effectively adjusted his game to set up his teammates against a set New York defense.

During the regular season, LeBron shot 53.1 percent and his teammates shot 45.1 percent. Tonight, that essentially reversed. LeBron shot 44.4 percent, and his teammates shot 54.5 percent.

But Miami slowly expanded its lead, winning each quarter, by relying on James to set up his teammates. Four of his nine assists led to three-pointers, an effective shot for the Heat. Miami made 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) from beyond the arc.

On the other side, the Knicks--who've lost 12 straight playoff games, matching the Grizzlies for the longest postseason skid in NBA history--actually scored relatively efficiently, if one-dimensionally. Carmelo Anthony (12-of-26 for 30 points) attempted more than a third of New York's field goals and nearly half its free throws, which was probably a combination of Melo's ball-stopping and his teammates drifting.

Through three quarters, a timid Amar'e Stoudemire attempted as many shots as each Landry Fields and Baron Davis, both of whom played far fewer minutes than Amar'e. The Knicks ran more Melo-and-Amar'e pick-and-rolls in the fourth quarter, when Stoudemire scored eight of his 18 points. That play could be useful for the Knicks as the series moves to New York--if Stoudemire can still play after he sliced his hand open while punching a fire extinguisher case.

After the Heat has won both games relatively smoothly, New York is down to just that--a puncher's chance.

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Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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