NEW YORK — There are different aspects to defending the basket.
First, there’s preventing shots near the basket. And second, there’s contesting them.
If you’re looking at the first aspect, you could say the New York Knicks have done pretty well in their first-round series against the Miami Heat. The Heat have attempted just 23 percent of their total shots from within five feet of the basket, easily the lowest rate among the 16 playoff teams.
But the Heat are shooting an incredible 73 percent on those shots, the highest rate in the league, with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combining to shoot an incredible 29-for-34 from within five feet of the hoop.
On the other end of the floor, the Knicks have 25 more attempts than the Heat from within five feet of the basket, but just two more makes. With the Heat doing a great job of contesting the Knicks in the paint, New York is shooting just 51 percent from within five feet of the basket, down from 58 percent in the regular season.
Carmelo Anthony has done a good job of getting to the rim, but he hasn’t been able to finish. And Tyson Chandler, who recorded the third-highest field goal percentage in NBA history in the regular season, is shooting just 8-for-17 in the series, and just 8-for-15 from within five feet.
Shooting from within five feet of the basket
James’ and Wade’s numbers are pretty remarkable, but this is really nothing new for the Heat. Offensively, they ranked fourth in the league by shooting 62.3 percent from within five feet in the regular season. And defensively, they ranked second by allowing their opponents to shoot just 55.5 percent from within five feet.
To make matters worse for New York, the Heat are shooting 18-for-29 (62 percent) from elsewhere in the paint, where the Knicks are shooting just 9-for-23 (39 percent).
So, the Knicks have attempted 19 more shots in the paint than the Heat, but have made seven fewer.
The Heat are up 3-0, so most of the series numbers are going to look pretty bad from the Knicks’ perspective. But to get an idea of just how the series is going, you really don’t have to go outside the paint.