In Mike Woodson‘s words, Game 1 against the Heat was actually going fine for his team for the better part of a quarter-and-a-half. “And then,” he said, “all hell broke lose.”
What happened was LeBron James exploded, the Knicks unraveled emotionally and the game got away from them in a stunning instant.
“We were so hyped and wanted to play so well, very well,” Woodson said. “We didn’t get that accomplished. We did for a little over a quarter and a half. We just have to hang in there. We’ve got to beat this team. They’re not going to give it to you.”
No, the Heat are all about taking it to you. The Knicks have seen enough during the regular season to know Miami isn’t the type of team to sit back and play it safe. They were on the attack, like sharks smelling blood in the water, when the Knicks started turning the ball over and fouling on defense.
The game already began with frustration, as Carmelo Anthony missed his first seven shots. Then came three offensive charges, two of which were the correct call. The third was debatable.
But they were only part of an avalanche of whistles that went against the Knicks. In the second quarter, the Knicks were called for 15 fouls, including a Flagrant 1 against Tyson Chandler, when he drilled LeBron with a blindside pick. The Heat were called for just four fouls.
The Heat took 20 free throws in the quarter and the Knicks attempted just one.
Conspiracy? No. But did some overzealous whistles by the officials, especially Ed Malloy, lend to the severe momentum swing in favor of the Heat? Without question.
The Knicks were careful not to go there, however. Not after a 33-point defeat.
“It got a little out of hand out there. But as far as the officials go, we’ve got to let that go,” said Carmelo Anthony, who was hit with a technical for tossing the ball toward referee Danny Crawford. “We can’t go back-and-forth with them when they make a call. When they make it, it is what it is.”
This wasn’t about bad officiating, however. This was about bad composure. The game got away in that 30-13 second quarter and the Knicks were never able to find the fight in themselves to get back into it like the Clippers did Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Just a little bit of frustration on our behalf,” Baron Davis said. “Not staying poised, but trying to get it all back at once.”
With Game 1 over, the Knicks can’t get that one back. But they still can bring the series back to New York with momentum and a 1-1 split. It may be a daunting task with Iman Shumpert now gone with a devastating knee injury — adding injury to the insult — but it’s certainly not impossible.
“Everybody,” Melo said, “is going to have to do a little more.”
It starts with Landry Fields, who will move back into the first five and take on the job of defending Dwyane Wade. Last year, Fields got his baptism by fire against Ray Allen. This year, Fields has to step up to a great challenge.
In fact, this entire team has to do it, once again. Last season, they didn’t get to tip-off of Game 2 without losing two starters, Chauncey Billups (knee) and Amar’e Stoudemire (back). This year, they lost Shumpert, while Davis (back) and Jared Jeffries (knee) are ailing and Chandler is still fighting off the flu. And Jeremy Lin (knee) is nowhere near ready to jump into a series like this against a pressure team like Miami.
Once again, the Knicks couldn’t get to the tip-off of Game 2 without feeling like so much is going against them.
“But there’s no time to be crying about that now,” Melo said, “we’ve got to play basketball.”
This team has been resilient all season. They are 6-0 under Woodson following losses. Can they make it 7-0?
“Hey, they hit us in the mouth,” Woodson said after Game 1. “So we got to see what we’re made of now.”