With five games to go in the regular season it is looking more and more likely that the Knicks will face the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Now if you are a Vegas book maker, the only people you believe should be happy about a potential Knicks/Heat first round series are David Stern, the Execs at ABC/ESPN, and the Heat themselves. However there is a reason they actually play the games, and here are the reasons why the Knicks have more than a punchers chance to take down the Heatles.
1. Nothing to lose: No one with any sense of sanity is picking the Knicks to emerge out of a 7 game series with the Heat victorious. If the Knicks manage to win two games in this series, 99% of the Sports-world including most Knicks fans will have considered the feat a momentous overachievement. The Knicks can use that to their advantage. In the playoffs part of the battle is to overcome pressure, well in this match up the Knicks do not have any.
2. Talent: The Knicks will come in as the 7 seed and the Heat the 2 seed. In most situations the talent disparity between a 2 seed and a 7 seed is so great that the 2 seed can normally advance on talent alone. This is not the case this season. The talent gap between the Knicks and the Heat is not that wide at all. The Knicks are a 7 seed, because for most of the season the team flat out underachieved, not because they only had the talent to get the 7th spot.. Remember in 2009 the Mavericks were a 7 seed and the Spurs a 2 seed. The Mavs beat the Spurs in 6 games because despite the Spurs superior record they did not have vastly superior talent. One player not playing well for the Heat and one player playing well for the Knicks can be all that is needed to swing the balance in this series.
3. Defense: At the beginning of the season most analysts would tell you that the Knicks couldn't beat Miami in a 7 game series because they would not be committed to playing enough defense to do so. This Knicks team under Woodson plays defense on most nights, and is better equipped to put forth a consistent enough effort on that end of the floor, to win games against Miami, if they can find enough points.
4. Amare Stoudemire: Amare will most likely be back for this series and even if he is not all the way back in sync (he will only have 4 games at most to shake off the rust of missing a month), he is still someone that the Heat need to account for in their defensive plan. Even if Amare is mostly used as a decoy in this series, he still creates more problems for the Heat defensively than say Landry Fields or a spot up shooter like Novak. His presence alone will open up things for Carmelo and others on the offensive end. Amare also rebounds well against Miami and that is important as the Heat in their last game against the Knicks lived off of 2nd chance points. Amare's rebounding capability can help Chandler better control the defensive boards and cut down Miami's second chance points.
5. This Carmelo can mesh with Amare: There is a lot of concern that Carmelo and Amare will not be able to co-exist when Amare returns. From where I sit those concerns are unfounded, the reason is Carmelo Anthony himself. Carmelo is scoring a lot of points to be sure, but he is not only doing so efficiently but he is doing an excellent job of finding team mates and getting them involved. Now in the last game the Knicks played against Miami those guys did not make their shots, but Melo continued to make the extra pass and the right play. In the present frame of mind that we find Melo, if Amare is open or has a mismatch and Melo has the ball he will find him. That did not happen with enough regularity last season or for most of this season. However, given how Melo is playing right now, if Amare is active on the offensive end by moving, cutting and posting up, Melo will get him the ball.
6. Matchups: Playoff basketball is different that regular season ball because it is all about matchups. Even if you are a lower seeded team, if you can put a lineup on the floor that can match up with the higher seeded team your chances of winning are greatly increased. Woodson will have at his disposal assuming Amare plays, the lineup of Shumpert, Smith, Melo, Amare, and Chandler. That is a lineup that matches up well with the Heat's number one line up. Now while I am not certain that Woodson will start that lineup, I am certain he will go to it at some point in every game. The longer he can keep that group on the floor together against the Heat's number one group the better his chances will be of winning games.
So I have just given you six reasons why a Knicks vs. Heat matchup will not necessarily be a walk over for the Heat and that they could very well lose the series. Of course the Knicks will have to play well on defense and execute efficiently on offense to have a chance, but that is why they play the games. The Knicks have enough talent to beat Miami 4 times in 7 games, they have the ability to match up with the Heat. If we were looking at this realistically this series could actually be a "pick em." Really I see the winner of a Knicks/Heat matchup being the team that executes the best consistently over the course of the series.