Middle Kingdom Previews: Heat, Cavaliers

USA TODAY Sports

If the Knicks end Miami's winning streak, just how naked will y'all get?

I don't want to brag, but ever since my curse-flipping dalliance with the 76ers last week, the Knicks are 3-0. I'll be sure to mention that when I accept the Nobel Prize for Online Basketball Game Previewing. What's that? It's not a Nobel field? Well why not? It's sure as hell more worthy than that "economics" bullshit.

The Knicks now face their toughest test to date - cooling down the red hot Miami Heat, winners of their last 13 basketball games. Are there any triskaidekaphobes in the house? Good, cuz the Knicks are about to triskaidek the Heat right upside the head! To the previews!

Sun., March 3 - Miami Heat

Chinese name: 热火 Lit. "hot fire"

I posted Dylan last time and the Knicks won; you better believe he's making a return appearance.

I_spit_hot_fire_medium

via cdn1.sbnation.com

The Knicks beat this team by 20 points, twice, and it won't make a damn bit of difference in the lead-up to this game. The Heat, you see, have flipped the switch, rendering all pre-switch-flipping games irrelevant in the minds of the basketball public. Before we break down the Heat, let us pause for a moment on the idea of switch-flipping. It sickens me. I just sat through an NFL season where my Giants tried to defend their title with an epic campaign of switch-flipping. They got up only for the games that interested them, like the 49ers and Packers, and they annihilated those teams. They also missed the playoffs like a bunch of chumps. Switch-flipping doesn't usually work...unless you play in the NBA, where it works nearly every year. The NBA is depressing. The Heat are depressing. Now, on to the game!

In the months since their last meeting, the Heat jettisoned their one interesting player, Josh Harrellson. With Jorts gone, I'm struggling to find a player on this roster worth profiling. Who has the kind of gravitas that Jorts used to bring, night-in and night-out? Nobody, that's who! Oh well, I guess I'll just talk about this James fellow...

Lebron is in the midst of a historic season. Just how historic? Let's go to the ol' B-Ref Play Index and check the top five seasons in NBA history, by PER:

Totals Shooting
Rk Player Season Age Tm Lg MP FG FGA FG% 3P% FT% PER
1 Jackie Butler 2004-05 19 NYK NBA 5 4 4 1.000 1.000 90.3
2 Steven Hill 2008-09 23 OKC NBA 2 1 1 1.000 88.3
3 George Lee 1966-67 30 SFW NBA 5 3 4 .750 .857 77.0
4 Ian Lockhart 1990-91 23 PHO NBA 2 1 1 1.000 1.000 76.3
5 Tyson Wheeler 1998-99 23 DEN NBA 3 1 1 1.000 1.000 .500 76.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2013.

Hell yeah! You do your thing, Jackie Butler! WE ARE THE NEW YORK KNICKS!!!

...-sigh- that was fun. Now, let's look only at players who actually qualify.

Totals Shooting
Rk Player Season Age Tm Lg MP FG FGA FG% 3P% FT% PER
1 LeBron James 2012-13 28 MIA NBA 2116 571 1006 .568 .411 .753 31.9
2 Wilt Chamberlain* 1961-62 25 PHW NBA 3882 1597 3159 .506 .613 31.8
3 Wilt Chamberlain* 1962-63 26 SFW NBA 3806 1463 2770 .528 .593 31.8
4 LeBron James 2008-09 24 CLE NBA 3054 789 1613 .489 .344 .780 31.7
5 Michael Jordan* 1987-88 24 CHI NBA 3311 1069 1998 .535 .132 .841 31.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/1/2013.

...that was, umm, less fun. Save us, Jackie Butler!

On top of all that, Lebron is coming off perhaps the best month of his career, in which he shot over 64% from the field. Check out this article, and the accompanying shot chart, only if you want to poop your pants in terror (I wish someone had given me that warning before I read it.)

Okay, I get it...the Knicks are screwed. The question now is: just how screwed are they? It's hard to imagine a team getting less respect going into a match-up against a team they've already beaten twice by 20 points. But the Knicks have really brought a lot of that disrespect upon themselves with their recent lackluster play.

If the Knicks want reenact their early season wins, they're going to need the help of the guys ranked #1 and #2 on Knicks' fans' shit list: Steve Novak and Jason Kidd. Those guys absolutely buried the Heat from downtown in their first two meetings:

Novak: Game 1 - 17 points, 5-8 from three. Game 2 - 18 points, 4-9 from three

Kidd: Game 1 - 12 points, 3-5 from three. Game 2 - 11 points, 3-8 from three

Relying on those two to repeat their early-season excellence against the Heat is a dicey proposition. Will the Knicks try to change their strategy - perhaps work Amar'e inside against Miami's poor interior D? Or will the Knicks simply try to recapture their early-season magic from behind the arc? Or will Mike Woodson simply hide under a pile of coats and hope, somehow, everything works out? Let's put this question to the people with a poll (bottom of the page).

Mon., March 4 - @Cleveland Cavaliers

What is this, the Lebron James Legacy Tour? We move now from Lebron's current team to his former team...and, if you believe the rumor mill, his future team as well. Am I the only one else who is creeped out by Lebron's "handlers"? I'd like to think of the best basketball player in the world as a grown-ass man capable of making his own decisions, as opposed to a prized heifer being led on the county fair circuit.

Of course, the Cavalier the Knicks need to concern themselves with at the moment is Kyrie Irving. I had a strong recollection of the kid torching the Knicks at the Garden in December, but I didn't quite remember how many points he scored. I went to the box score, expecting to be amazed. Unfortunately, months of watching every single guard in the NBA put up video game numbers against the Knicks have left me somewhat jaded. Only 41 points, Kyrie? That's alright...I guess. Were you sick that evening? Mumps? Was it mumps?

The Knicks pulled off a 103-102 victory when Andersen Varejao bricked the game-tying free throw with one second left. Varejao is out for the season, so the Knicks will need to find someone else to foul with the game on the line. They could try Tristan Thompson, or even Luke Walton...good God, Luke Walton is still in the NBA? And averaging 17 minutes in the past month? This team must be terrible!

It's an important thing to remember - a team with one great player (Irving) and one above-average player (Thompson) has no business beating the Knicks. We learned as much during the Warriors game. Sure, Irving might go off for some Steph Curry numbers, but even that short-handed Warriors team had better pieces than these Cavs. They are the worst team in the league in field goal percentage defense and effective field goal percentage defense. For the Knicks, a team with a whole mess of shooters hurting for confidence, the Cavs could be just what the doctor ordered. Just try to keep Kyrie Irving under 50 points, okay guys?

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