The 66 game NBA regular season has come to an end. The playoffs have finally arrived. The Knicks are locked on to the 7th seed and will play the 2nd seeded Miami Heat in the first round. Game one will be Saturday afternoon at 3:30 in Miami. The Heat finished the season with a 46-20 record while the Knicks finished with a 36-30 record. Miami dominated New York in the regular season winning all three games against them by an average of ten points.
The Heat are not the best matchup for the Knicks. That is without a doubt, but the Carmelo Anthony led Knicks could make a series of this. The Knicks have been playing good basketball finishing the season very hot. With the exception of Jeremy Lin, who will most likely miss the entire first round, the Knicks are coming into the playoffs fairly healthy. Amare Stoudemire is back and looked strong in the last couple of games of the season. Tyson Chandler will be ready to go as he got to rest himself for a couple of games.
The key to this series will be the play of Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire needs to help Melo in the scoring department and needs to outplay Chris Bosh. As soon as Amare went down in last years playoff with injury the series was a wrap. The Knicks need to get the continued incredible play of Anthony as well as a strong series from Amare if they want any chance to make this a series. Another huge factor in this series will be the defense of Iman Shumpert on Dwyane Wade. We have seen the aggressive defense from the rookie Shumpert all season that has had many guards frustrated. If Shumpert can contain Wade throughout the series and force LeBron James to carry this team, the Knicks will make this a long series.
The coaching matchup is fairly even as both coaches Mike Woodson and Erik Spoelstra have been to the playoffs and have won in the playoffs. Mike Woodson is a guy who preaches tough defense. Spoelstra has had the entire season to work with his team while Woodson has only been the head guy for six weeks. Team chemistry is definitely going to be a major factor in this series and could be a disadvantage for the Knicks.
The problem is that the Heat just have too much athleticism and talent for the Knicks. LeBron James will most likely win an NBA MVP this season, Dwyane Wade has done it before in the playoffs and the Heat are looking to start the dynasty that they hoped for when signing the “big three” last season. The Heat have added some depth this season with players such as Norris Cole and Shane Battier who have been big contributors off the bench this season. The Knicks definitely have the advantage when it comes bench play and depth. New York will keep this a good series because of their improved depth and the strong shooters such as Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. New York is going to have to get improved play from their backcourt and some big buckets by guys other than Stat and Melo. Also, the “precocious neophyte” Landry Fields cannot disappear as he did in the first round last year against the Celtics.
The Knicks hope to revive Madison Square Garden and pull off the upset this series like they did against Miami 12 years ago. It is going to be a tough task trying to do it against a star-studded Miami team, but the Knicks are not backing down and are ready for the challenge. Sunday afternoon the rivalry continues.
My Prediction: Heat in 6