New York fights harder, plays better, but Heat still win, up 2-0

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Carmelo Anthony played better, dropping 30 in Game 2. Tyson Chandler was back to being himself after having the flu and was far more aggressive at both ends. He had a real impact on the game.

It didn’t matter. The Miami Heat led most of the game, took charge when LeBron James went on a personal run in the third quarter, and went on to win 104-94. The Heat are now up 2-0 in the first-round playoff series as it heads back to New York.

The Knicks need to treat Game 3 Thursday as a must win because if they go down 3-0 it’s all but over.

And it may be tough to win Game 3 without Amare Stoudemire, who hurt his left hand punching a glass-encased fire extinguisher after the game. Not smart. But it kind of fits in with how this series has gone for the Knicks. Stoudemire’s status for Game 3 is unknown.

The Heat led from the start. With Iman Shumpert out due to a torn ACL, Dwyane Wade was able to establish him self early and attack in the paint. He helped get the Heat off early and finished with 25.

But these Knicks were more aggressive than in Game 1 — they ran more pick-and-roll so the defense couldn’t focus on just Anthony. Chandler had a monster putback in the second. Anthony seemed to have his way with Shane Battier on him, they ran other sets to counter the Heat’s fronting of Anthony. ‘Melo tried to shoot the Knicks to a win.

The problem is that is not going to work. Maybe once in a seven game series, but the Heat’s defense is too quick, too athletic, you can’t just rely on one guy against them. The Knicks are not sharing the ball enough, they are taking a lot of jumpers while the Heat get points in the paint. Right now, the Knicks are strictly the ‘Melo show.

The Heat have other guys. LeBron had 19 points but was key in the third quarter when the Heat pulled away. After Game 1 the Knicks brought double teams and tried to take the ball out of his hands, and it sort of worked. Well, until the third quarter when he just attacked anyway and couldn’t be stopped.

Chris Bosh also had a better game as well, including the dagger. He had 21 points but just three rebounds.

The Knicks need more from everyone else. They need better and more consistent defense. They need J.R. Smith to make plays on the pick and roll and get hot shooting. They need Steve Novak to score and Landry Fields to stop hesitating when the ball gets swung to him. They need everything to go right — their margin for error against the Heat is small.

They need it all to come together back home Thursday night for Game 3. It’s must win for them.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.

Another Hornets backup PG injured

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Hornets backup point guard Michael Carter-Williamsout.

Nicolas Batum, who handled a lot of playmaking with Charlotte’s second units – out.

Julyan Stone, another Hornets backup point guard – out.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Julyan Stone has suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring. The injury occurred in practice on Sunday, Oct. 22 and he did not travel with the team to Milwaukee.  Stone is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bucks and his expected recovery time is estimated at four to six weeks.

The Hornets have been outscored by an astounding 35.8 points per 100 possessions without starter Kemba Walker, producing an offensive rating of just 61.4. That’s in just 23 minutes, but the problem dates back to last season, when Charlotte was outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions with a 100.7 offensive rating sans Walker.

Now, the Hornets have little choice but to turn to rookie Malik Monk. Monk is a scoring guard, but his 6-foot-3 size means he has at least worked on playing point guard. Is he ready to play the position full-time for a team eying the playoffs. Probably not, but he’ll just have to do his best to keep Charlotte afloat in the few minutes Walker rests.

Report: Suns also fire three assistant coaches

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The Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season – the second-earliest firing in NBA history.

They didn’t stop there.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Firing assistant coaches during the season has become Phoenix’s m.o. I’m just not sure what it accomplishes.

Were Watson, Nate Bjorkgren, Mehmet Okur and Jason Fraser all so bad at their jobs? If so, why did the Suns figure that out simultaneously?

Were the firings designed to shake up a losing team? If so, wouldn’t ousting Watson have been enough?

Will Phoenix replace those assistants? If not, will the team have the resources to properly train its players?

The Suns are filled with young players who need coaching, particularly skill development. This move looks like it will put them further behind.