Perkins: If Knicks protect the ball, they can beat Heat

In Miami’s 13 losses, the Heat have lost the turnover battle nine times, won twice and tied twice.

That might not seem unusual on the surface. Most teams lose the turnover battle in losses.

However, keeping the turnovers low might have a disproportionate effect on the Heat because of how much their success is tied to their defense.

The Heat’s defense is tied for sixth in opponents’ field goal percentage (.436). It’s obviously tough to score on them. But when they can also create turnovers to take away shot opportunities, it’s a lethal combination. And throughout the course of a best-of-seven series, it often turns into a winning combination.

This low-turnover formula isn’t a lock. The Knicks, you might recall, committed just five turnovers in an 88-85 loss to Brooklyn a little more than a week ago.

But against Miami, keeping the turnovers to a minimum helps greatly.

Look no further than the Heat’s 100-98 double overtime loss at Boston on Sunday. Even though the Celtics were playing without guard Rajon Rondo, who is lost for the season with a knee injury, Boston only committed 13 turnovers. Among those, the Heat only got six steals.

“Defensively, we just didn’t lock in and get the stops we needed when we had to,” Allen said. “It will serve as a learning tool for us moving forward.”

Contrast that with the Heat’s previous game, a 110-88 victory over Detroit. Miami forced 18 turnovers, 12 of them steals, enabling James and Wade to put on an alley-oop show worthy of a highlight film.

“D-Wade took over, and LeBron was his usual self,” Pistons guard Will Bynum said. “It’s just tough to defend when they’re playing like that.”

Wade was doubted early in the season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery but is a perfect recent example of the Heat’s connection between forcing turnovers and getting wins. He has 12 steals in his last five games, and Miami is 4-1 in that span.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said last week Wade was in the gym early, doing all his weight work. He seems to be getting some spring back in his step at both ends of the court. He’s averaging 27 points in his last four games while shooting .534 from the field.

“Dwyane has always proven he gets better as the season goes on,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a rhythm-and-flow player. He’s already starting to look more active, much more like the Dwyane we know. He’s recapturing his youth.”

Clearly, that’s enough to make any Heat opponent sick. It means the Heat will be even better during the playoffs than they are right now.

But because they take care of the ball, the Knicks just might have the right antidote for Miami.

Chris Perkins is a veteran Miami-based sports journalist who covers the Miami Heat for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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