As the season comes to its conclusion, all NBA fans can look forward to a nice heaping of NBA Playoff basketball in close to two weeks. That being said, it’s clear that the favorite to win the Eastern Conference should be the Miami Heat. The Heat so far have proven their dominance over the entire league by currently establishing a 63-16 record.
However, like any basketball fan, I crave good competitive games. There is only one team in the East that can compete against the Heat with their current roster, and that is clearly New York.
The Pacers have essentially hit a downward spiral ever since they last lost to the Heat a few weeks ago, one of the many games the Heat won when they had their legendary 27-game winning streak. The Pacers are a mediocre home team, and Roy Hibbert as simply underperformed to the point that the Heat’s short front court can easily score against the former all-star.
The Pacers are a younger version of the Knicks, but they lack the superstar equivalent of someone like Carmelo Anthony. In order to beat a team filled with stars, you need to have a star, and the Pacers simply lack in that department.
New York finally has a team that is worthy enough to play in the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden. With Carmelo Anthony having one of his best seasons as a pro, the Knicks have surged to the second seed of the Eastern Conference. Even with the lack of competitiveness in that conference, the current seeding of the Knicks is still a bright spot in a franchise that is produced nothing but turmoil over the last decade.
The Knicks will win their first series since 2000. There is no doubt in mind, that the Knicks are a top three team in the Eastern Conference. However, let’s pit them against the Heat.
The Knicks are the only team in the league to beat Miami three times this season. All three of the New York wins were by double digits. Let’s not forget the lone win that the Heat have over the Knicks was a closely contested game. During that game, New York also had a double digit lead.
The Knicks surely have dominated the Heat throughout the regular season. No one can argue against that.
However, the one issue that all Knicks’ fans should worry about when playing the Heat is the reason why they won those three games. The three pointer is the only way the Knicks can beat Miami. That is the only way to beat Miami, unless a team can use a dominant center to control the middle of the paint. However, there are no bruisers in the Eastern Conference that can compete against the Heat, especially with the lack-luster play of Roy Hibbert.
The first game against the Heat, right after Hurricane Sandy, the Knicks made 19 three points shots. In the second game, 18 three pointers. The third game that the Knicks won, they hit 14 threes, and that was without James or Wade playing. That is an average of 17 three pointers made in wins against the Heat.
The Knicks average on the year 10.8 threes. Realistically the Knicks are not going to repeat any sort of astronomical three point shooting number in four games out of seven to ultimately beat Miami.
That begs the question, can any team beat Miami? Well yes, the Knicks do ultimately have the best shot because they have proven to handily beat them before. That being said, the Knicks need to rely on their three point shots to fall. Novak, JR, Kidd, Melo and company all need to muster have threes in bunches to bring down the Heat.
Carmelo has averaged 37.3 points against the Heat this year, far above his season average against the league of 28.7. The team also does a good job in not turning over the ball, something that the Heat offense thrives on. The Knicks only surrender 12.3 turnovers per game against the Heat. That is definitely getting it done against a defense that tends to play smothering defense.
However the one flaw that the Knicks have had against the season is that JR Smith leads the Knicks in rebounding. That may necessarily be a problem by itself, but when your team’s leading rebounder averages a little under seven rebounds and is a guard, that is a little concerning. The Knicks need to sure up that problem when they play the Heat. Tyson needs to have double digit rebounds and needs to have more than his season average against the Heat of 1.3 blocks per game.
The Knicks are the one team that can drag out a long series against the Heat this postseason before the Finals. However Vegas and all analysts rightfully and firmly believe that the Heat are the clear favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference.