Reports trickled in following the Knicks’ 104-94 Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat that Amare Stoudemire, so angered by the teams’ performance, punched a fire extinguisher case, damaging both the case and his hand. Stoudemire was reported to leave the arena with heavy bandages on his left hand and his arm in a sling. ESPN reports Stoudemire is “almost certain to miss Game 3″ and may miss the rest of the series.
So, could a sputtering Knicks squad actually benefit from losing the big man? The short answer: No. New York lacks a consistent second scorer and needs Stoudemire’s offensive punch to have any shot to get past the Heat.
But, perhaps the Knicks could benefit from some sort of change to their starting unit.
Consider this: With Stoudemire on the floor, the Knicks are outscored by opponents by 2.7 points per 100 possessions. With him on the bench, New York outscores their opponents by 10.1. That’s a staggering number to look at.
Stoudemire is a dominant offensive player, despite his recent struggles. The real difference with him out is the matchup difficulties it creates for Knicks’ opponents. Carmelo Anthony slides to the 4, where he is typically quicker than his defender and can beat them off the dribble. This not only opens up Anthony’s scoring capabilities, but also allows his teammate more open looks. (Though, this is somewhat less effective against the Heat, who utilize LeBron James to guard anyone and everyone, and he’s proven himself more than capable on Anthony.)
Coming off the bench, Amare could add a scoring punch to an up-and-down secondary unit. J.R. Smith is a very capable shooter, but he’s either hot or cold. And when he can’t score, New York’s bench struggles to score.
This is the playoffs, so benches are shorter across the league. Subbing Amare at the 5 for Tyson Chandler would pit him against Miami’s biggest weakness and put him in a good position to succeed without having to exert too much defensively. It would also allow Anthony to continue utilizing a (potentially) beneficial matchup at PF.
But, if Stoudemire is, in fact, out for the series, the Knicks’ problems are only going to get worse.
After the game, Tyson Chandler said of the incident, ”Your emotions run high. Split second decisions can obviously alter things…One quick decision, you make a mistake and you gotta deal with the repercussions.”
Yesterday, we looked at how Rajon Rondo’s split second decision of bumping a referee would force him to miss a crucial Game 2. Today, we see another poor decision by a player that may cost his team a series. (Though, to be honest, New York probably wasn’t going to win this one anyway.)
Whenever Stoudemire does play next, coach Mike Woodson should consider bringing him out with the second unit. The Knicks need to try something different in Game 3 because their current game plan clearly isn’t working. Although it may be tough for him to swallow his pride, at this point, Stoudemire has to do whatever he can to give his team a shot to make it to the Conference Semis.