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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Last week the New York Knicks needed a miracle finish to survive a Sunday afternoon matinee against the Chicago Bulls. They found themselves in the same situation this week against the Miami Heat. Lightning didn’t strike twice. In fact, there may be storm clouds sitting over the New York Knicks playoff hopes if they’re going to insist on taking turns forcing up guarded shots instead of passing the ball around.

Right now, New York’s offense revolves around Carmelo Anthony. He loves to shoot. He’s established in his career that he’s more comfortable scoring 42 points and losing (as happened today), then he is sharing the ball and settling for 24 points in a win. That was the postseason story when he was at Denver. That’s going to be the postseason story this year in New York against either Chicago or Miami in the first round if the Knicks don’t re-emphasize ball movement to take advantage of their perimeter shooters.

Let’s take a look at the numbers before going any further…

 

MIAMI 93, NEW YORK 85

Field Goal Pct: Miami 46%, New York 43%

Three-Pointers: Miami 4/17, New York 9/30

Free Throws: Miami 17/21, New York 14/23

Rebounds: Miami 47, New York 33

Turnovers: Miami 15, New York 14

Vegas Line: Miami by 3, total of 189

New York took a whopping 30 treys, but hit fewer than a third of them. Disappointingly, most came in semi-isolation situations rather than after a sequence of passes. Teams who have been beating Miami lately have been doing it by scooting the ball around until somebody had an open look. Way too many of New York’s shots came after guys dribbled for 5-7 seconds then launched a guarded shot. Carmelo can get away with this because he can attack off his dribble. Him scoring 42 is great for his ego. The team scoring 85 isn’t going to be enough.

Of particular importance in that boxscore is the rebounding edge for Miami. If New York is going to MISS that many long shots…and Miami is going to grab the bulk of the rebounds…then any long miss is the same as a turnover from the Knicks perspective.

For its part, Miami still hasn’t found the form that would suggest a championship is imminent. The team plays at a PLODDING place right now, no longer even trying to break out for the fast break dunks that made so many highlight reels earlier in the season. The big three are still doing the bulk of the work. They look tired, and are playing tired given their heavy load in this exhausting season. Given what we saw in Miami-Chicago the other night, and this game Sunday, the Eastern playoffs are going to be a sausage grinder. Nobody has the legs to run. Teams are happy to settle for jumpers for long stretches just because they’re too tired to do anything else. Maybe that will open the door for an energy team like Indiana to do more damage than expected. Something to think about a few weeks down the road.

New York’s loss drops them a half game behind Philadelphia at the bottom of the Eastern brackets. The Sixers are currently in 7th position. New York has a two-game lead over Milwaukee for the eighth and final spot. Miami is locked into the #2 seed in the East barring a few major surprises between now and the end of next week.

Miami-New York was followed by Dallas and the Lakers in ABC’s twinbill. Let’s run the numbers from that game…

 

LA LAKERS 112, DALLAS 108 (in overtime)

Field Goal Pct: Dallas 47%, Lakers 45%

Three-Pointers: Dallas 12/21, Lakers 7/18

Free Throws: Dallas 14/15, Lakers 21/27

Rebounds: Dallas 42, Lakers 52

Turnovers: Dallas 6, Lakers 7

Vegas Line: LA Lakers by 2, total of 189

Very entertaining game, largely because we got to see what the Lakers look like late in a close game when Kobe isn’t there to hog the ball and force up guarded shots over and over again. Did you know Pau Gasol can make three-pointers that gracefully? The Spaniard made two in overtime. Ramon Sessions shot well as a ballhandler. Andrew Bynum is still a work in progress because he’s had so little experience being the focal point of the offense. It’s scary to think how good he’d be now if he had been allowed to touch the ball on something besides offensive rebounds in the last five minutes of close games.

Still, even though the Lakers are 4-1 without Kobe, this wouldn’t have been a cover at the end of regulation. The defense allowed too many open looks on treys, and only forced six turnovers even with the extra period. You can’t put the Lakers into the Western title discussions yet. The offense is sluggish when Kobe is playing. The bench is thin when he can’t suit up. The rebounding is great…but we need to see more development from Bynum and role players before we start heartily endorsing the Lakers in the playoffs.

Some quick baseball notes from Sunday…

*Boston won their third game in a row from Tampa Bay. That put everyone in the AL East between 5-4 and 4-5 in the standings. Who would have imagined that before the playoffs started?

*Texas finished off a sweep of Minnesota. The Rangers have had an easy early schedule to be sure…but they’re dominating that easy early schedule! Texas is 8-2 through its first 10 games, with the best run differential in the American League at +21.

*Cleveland swept the Kansas City Royals on the road this weekend, climbing back to the .500 mark to start the season.

*The team with the best run differential in the majors is the St. Louis Cardinals. A blowout win over the Cubs brought them to +23 for the season with a 7-3 record. They lead second place Houston by 2.5 games. Wait a second…second place HOUSTON? Disappointing start for a few of the projected contenders in the NL Central.

*Atlanta finished off a sweep of Milwaukee to go move to 5-4 after an 0-4 start. Fortuned can turn very quickly in this sport. That’s why you can’t put too much weight on the first week, or even the first month.

*We do like what we’re seeing early from the Los Angeles Dodgers. We mentioned early that the solution to their ownership woes may have helped the mindset on the field. With San Francisco losing ace reliever Brian Wilson for the season, the Dodgers may be in position to jump to relevancy in the NL West sooner than anyone expected.

That wraps up this edition of the NOTEBOOK. Don’t forget that selections for Monday will go up early in the day right here at this website. If you have any questions about longer term packages, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Games we’re looking at Monday for serious play in the NBA:

Philadelphia at Orlando (on NBA Network)

Denver at Houston

Dallas at Utah

Oklahoma City at LA Clippers (on NBA Network)

Monday Night’s baseball schedule includes the NY Mets at Atlanta and Philadelphia at San Francisco.

Back with you Tuesday to discuss the TNT doubleheader (Boston at New York and San Antonio at the LA Lakers). We’re now a week-and-a-half away from the end of the NBA regular season…so there should be drama every day! Plus, baseball bombshells will be breaking a few times this week in terms of major NETWORK releases. Be sure you check the ad boxes on the home page of this website for daily bulletins. We’ll do our best here in the NOTEBOOK to let you know what’s going on the court, on the field, and in the numbers.

LOG IN DAILY WITH JIM HURLEY…YOUR FORTUNE AWAITS!

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