Will slap across face from Knicks finally wake Heat up?

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The Knicks are legit, give them their due. In Miami Thursday night, even without Carmelo Anthony, they were the aggressors. Raymond Felton attacked and he Heat tried to react. It’s early, but New York is positioning itself to be the threat to Miami in the East.

But let’s be honest — Miami has looked awful. Pretty much all season. Specifically their defense, which is now 23rd in the NBA in points surrendered per possession. They are coasting, acting like they can flip the switch, and they are finding the couple times they do that in games the opponent pushes back. Miami looks like a team not used to having the target on its back.

Maybe the Knicks coming down to Miami and essentially slapping them across the face will get their attention (because somehow losing to the lowly Wizards didn’t.). We think the Heat can turn it around because we’ve seen pretty much this exact roster defend in the past, but they are not doing it now.

After the game the Heat were saying the right things. LeBron went out for an extra workout and to get up some shots after the loss (even though he was one assist away from a triple double and wasn’t the problem) then told this to the Palm Beach Post:

“We’ve got work to do,” James said. “We can’t act like, OK, let’s just sweep this under the rug. We’ve got a lot of work to do. New York is a real team, they’ve got some real good players, and we understand that.”

Udonis Haslem — the elder spokesman for the Heat — was more direct speaking with the Palm Beach Post, saying the Heat need to get back to playing angry, like they did when everyone seemed to hate them with a white-hot passion.

“You watch teams on film, and they play a certain way, and then they come in against us, and it’s completely different,” Haslem said. “Teams are going to play at a high level when you’re the defending champions. We’ve got to understand that. We can’t come out and play cool, we can’t just accept the fact that they are making shots. You’ve got to understand that the hardest thing you’re ever going to do is defend this title, and people are going to play their hearts out against us, and we’ve got to play our hearts out. And we haven’t done that for four quarters yet. We have yet to see four quarters of angry, hatred basketball like we used to play when people hated us. And that’s partly my job as a captain. And I carry a chip on my shoulder, and I’ve got to get it back, and it’s going to have to translate to everybody.”

Chris Bosh went a step further, saying the Heat’s style — what Erik Spoelstra calls “space and pace” — may need to be slowed down. From Tom Haberstroh at ESPN’s Heat Index:

“It’s a lot of possessions,” Bosh said. “We should really slow down some and really put pressure on teams. I think sometimes we get into this place where we try to force things by trying to play too fast. Sometimes it is good but it has to be a balance….

“I think we had a lot of success when we were just taking our time,” Bosh said. “We don’t have to put it in our heads to just go. We’re a good team, we can pick you apart, whatever way you want it. If you want to play halfcourt, we can play halfcourt. If you want to play fullcourt, we can play that too. But we haven’t been in situations – I don’t even recall any this year – where we were just like, ‘Boy this is a slugfest out there, this is a heavyweight bout.'”

I’m not sure I agree with Bosh. With defense it’s about effort and energy — last year Miami used their athleticism and length to make you adjust to how they came at you on defense. They pressured you. This year they are reacting. Which means fewer turnovers and fewer easy buckets in transition (Miami is 11th in pace in the league, they are not lighting it up).

At some point this team will wake up. We’ll see if the Knicks were the alarm clock or if Miami just hit the snooze bar again.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.