Well, the Knicks exceeded my end of season prediction with 10 games to go. I thought they'd end up 34-32 with the 8 seed, but they ended up 36-30, in the 7 seed. So they face the Heat instead of the Bulls, rendering my prediction null and void... so I have to make another one.
the Heat have obviously beat up on a lot of teams all year, including the Knicks. Why are they so good?
1. Wade. The guy is really, really tough, both physically and in the brain.
2. Defense. They play it. They love it. Wade and LeBron are so athletic and quick and strong that they've almost redefined it. They are good at hounding point guards and impeding ball movement. When that defense gets turnovers and Wade and LeBron get out on the break, it not only leads to points but in the demoralization of the other team.
3. Haslem, Bosh, and Anthony are a pretty good tandem of bigs. Only Bosh is really a scorer, but the other two rebound and defend very well.
4. Spot up shooters that take advantage of teams trying to keep Wade and LeBron from dunking.
Weaknesses: Um, not much here. They're a tad undersized at the 5. Also, they don't have much in the way of a point guard. Chalmers and rookie Norris Cole may be decent but they are also sort of precluded from running the show by the star power of Wade and James. Speaking of James, when he plays the backup point, the Heat have a pretty ridiculous size advantage at that position.
How can the Knicks match up?
1. Big, Skilled Frontcourt. Chandler is bigger than anyone they've got, and a terrific defender. Amar'e is very athletic and can be very intimidating. When he gets hyped up, he can even make great defensive plays. All three of these guys are quicker than the average guy of their size and weight. This somewhat negates the advantage that Bosh and LeBron enjoy over most opponents.
2. Shumpert. Most teams don't have a perimeter defender as good as Shump. Shumpert has a shot of at least slowing down Wade a litle. Also, if the Heat go to a LeBron at the point look, Shumpert might actually be able to guard Lebron a little bit while running the point himself.
3. Lack of intimidation. Amar'e and Carmelo are seasoned playoff veterans that fear no man. Chandler is fresh off beating the Heat in the finals with the Mavericks last year. Baron Davis, and Mike Bibby, while they may not be what they were, have plenty of playoff experience and that could be an advantage against Chalmers and Cole.
How can the Knicks put pressure on the Heat?
1. Involve Chandler in the offense. If Chandler can use his superior height to dunk some lobs or short looks, the Heat will have to adjust and that will mean opportunites for Amar'e,
2. Keep Shump out of foul trouble. Shumpert needs to play big minutes so that he can use his energy and youth to wear down Wade and the Heat's guards.
3. Practice hitting threes under 'frantic closeout' conditions. I think the Heat are so good at closing out that it kind of surprises some teams, but I think the Knicks just have to get used to it and take those shots anyway. I really don't think that anyone's going to block Novak's three attempt.
4. Even if the Heat completely take away Novak's shot, use the space created by their close attention to him to get Melo or Amar'e the ball with space to operate.
5. Put Amar'e on LeBron. Just a thought.
So, onto predictions. Hm, OK.
Game 1, Heat 122, Knicks 92 Lebron scores 50 and gets a triple double.
Game 2, Knicks 99, Heat 97 Knicks trail for most of the game by between 5 and 10 points but turn it on in the final minutes to take the lead and hold on for the win.
Game 3, Heat 102, Knicks 91 -- Heat rain 3's on Knicks Garden parade. Knicks hang tough but sadly relinquish home court advantage.
Game 4, Knicks 115, Heat 108, OT After trailing much of the game, Knicks storm back from 8 point deficit in final 2 minutes, tying the game on an Amar'e dunk, then blitzing the Heat in OT as the Garden crowd gets extra-rowdy.
Game 6: Knicks 118 Heat 84: Knicks control the game from start to finish as Lin rebounds with 34 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds and one dunk on Chris Bosh's head.
Game 7: Wade goes insane, scoring 48 in a tightly fought contest. With the Knicks down one with 12 seconds left, Knicks inbound the ball to Lin who, in a diagrammed play, fires an alley-oop to Shumpert for the dunk and the one point lead. With 7 seconds left, the Heat inbound the ball to LeBron, who's guarded by Shumpert. LeBron tries unsuccessfully to shake Shump, then in an effort to assert his manhood for once, launches a long three. It misses back rim but the refs call a phantom foul on Shumpert, who didn't actually touch LeBron. LeBron misses the first free throw, then misses the second - however, at that point Shump is called for a technical for jawing with the official. James hits his final free throw to tie, and Wade hits the T to go ahead. On the other end the Knicks' attempt at an inbounds alley-oop to Melo is nearly successful but Melo is bumped and doesn't quite get enough of the ball to jam it through. Heat 108-Knicks 107.
The Heat lose to the Pacers in the second round in 5 games. Spoelstra is fired, and the Heat never get to the finals again in the LeBron era. The Bulls go to the finals and beat the Spurs in 7 games. It will be the Bulls' only championship in the Rose era.
The Knicks go on to make the NBA finals for the next three years, winning in 2013 and 2015.