New York Knicks Stat Monkey Brief: Knicks/Heat (12/6/12)

According to Patrick Haneman, the role players should be the key in tonight's Heat/Knicks matchup.

If you're looking for the Heat perspective on this game, go to Michael Ruemmele's piece here: Miami Heat Stat Brief

Lebron James. Carmelo Anthony. Dwyane Wade. Tyson Chandler. Chris Bosh. This matchup features the NBA’s biggest names, who will get all the pre-game attention, but tonight’s Knicks-Heat game in Miami will come down to role players.

Can the Heat take some scoring pressure off the “Big Three?”

In Washington on Tuesday, LeBron had his first triple-double of the season, and the Heat’s “Big Three” contributed 69.3% of the team’s scoring, yet the Heat fell to the 2-13 Wizards. And in the two games the Big Three has scored over 70% of the Heat’s points, Miami won by a combined 10 points against two middle-of-the-road teams – a three point win over the 9-8 Rockets and a seven point OT win against the 8-9 Bucks. So the Heat are far from elite when LeBron, Wade, and Bosh have to carry the bulk of the scoring load.

Who will get hot from downtown?

The game features two of the top three teams in the NBA in effective field goal percentage, a shooting metric accounting for the fact that 3-pointers are worth 1.5 as much as 2-point FGs. The Heat lead the NBA at 54.7%, while the Knicks are third with an eFG% of 52.6%. Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Shane Battier are driving forces behind the Heat’s hot shooting, as all three fall in the top 11 of the league in three-point percentage.

On the other side, the Knicks have the NBA’s three-point FG% leader in Jason Kidd, who’s draining an incredible 51.1% from downtown so far this season. Kidd, J.R. Smith, and Steve Novak must outperform Allen, Lewis, and Battier tonight if the Knicks hope for a signature win in Miami. Smith and Novak were huge in the earlier matchup this season, as they combined for 28 points, including 7-for-12 from three in the Knicks’ blowout win. In contrast, Smith and Novak averaged only a combined 14.6 points in last year’s playoff series between these teams, including an abysmal 9-for-35 from beyond the arc, as the Heat easily dispatched the Knicks in five games.

Which J.R. Smith will show up tonight?

Carmelo Anthony will be a game-time decision tonight after suffering a “deep cut” to his left middle finger while diving into the stands for a loose ball with 2:10 left to play last night in Charlotte. Fortunately, J.R. Smith stepped up in Melo’s absence. With the game tied at 98, he stole a crosscourt pass by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist when the Bobcats had a chance to run the clock down for a final shot. And on the ensuing possession, Smith drained a step-back 18-footer to win the game at the buzzer.

J.R. Smith is averaging 14.6 points and is shooting 46.5% from downtown in wins this season, compared to a 10.0 PPG scoring average and 16.7% three-point percentage in losses. His presence will be all the more important for the Knicks if Melo is unable to play tonight.