After 10 years, a whole decade’s worth of bullshit, season after season of losing, the New York Knicks are back in the second round of the NBA playoffs. During that time, we had to endure names like Andrea Bargnani, Lou Amundson, Cleanthony Early, Samuel Dalembert, and the inflated, overpaid corpse of Joakim Noah wearing the orange and blue. Despite how you felt about him, we watched Carmelo Anthony traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, and eventually Kristaps Porziņģis get traded to the Dallas Mavericks for some of the worst players in the NBA (José Calderón, DeAndre Jordan). We watched some of the biggest bums in NBA coaching history “lead” our team to historic losing seasons (Derek Fisher, David Fizdale). Yet, we survived all of that to be where we are now—in the ECSF. To make it even sweeter, because the Miami Heat are on a truncated Cinderella run as a Play-In team, the Knicks have home-court advantage in this series.
And this season’s postseason run for the Knicks has only just begun. First, we fucked Mark Cuban right back for the KP deal by stealing their superstar-in-waiting, Jalen Brunson, for nothing. Then we made the second-best deadline deal for Josh Hart, this team’s version of Latrell Sprewell. Then we stormed into the playoffs on the back of an evolved, self-aware Tom Thibodeau, only to silence the referendum on Donovan Mitchell in perpetuity. And now we face the Miami Heat, our oldest rival and most hated opponent. Their fans are the opposite of ours: apathetic, late, lazy bandwagoners. So much so that we turned the Kaseya Center (I had no idea it was called this, LOL) into Madison Square Garden “South” by filling it with more Knicks fans than Heat fans, and this series, we are going to smack the “Don’t Say Gay” out of their mouth with a proper beating.
At least to start, the Heat will have the best player on the court with Jimmy Butler. Of course, that could change should Jalen Brunson go Super Saiyan. Butler is coming off one of the most incredible playoff series performances of all time. But let’s be honest, had Giannis Antetokounmpo not been injured, we would be playing the Bucks right now. But he was, so we are playing the Heat. While the Heat might have the best player, we have, by far and away, the best team. Our one-nine players are more talented, better defenders, have higher ceilings and have a higher IQ than the Heat’s main rotation.
Maybe, just maybe, if the Heat had Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, this would be a series, but both are out for the foreseeable future with series injuries. So now Max Struss and Kevin Love have had to take on a higher usage rate, a bigger scoring load, and a starting position. Mitchell Robinson just got done dominating the best frontcourt duo in the NBA in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. What do you think he’s going to do against the 6’8, 34-year-old Kevin Love? He’s going to beat his ass, that’s what. Robinson is playing like the third-best center in the NBA right now. Love will provide the perfect foil for him to make his name a “household noun” by the series’ end. As in, senior citizens in MAGA hats will be calling their liberal nieces and nephews “sons of Mitches” by Thanksgiving.
Even without Julius Randle for Game 1, and perhaps Game 2, the Knicks simply have more weapons and ammo. Like against Cleveland, we destroy them at every matchup except shooting guard, where Jimmy Butler is way better (for now) than Quentin Grimes. But the rest of the matchups are almost a joke. Brunson embarrasses Gabe Vincent, RJ Barrett will nut punch Struss on drives, Randle is a draw with Bam Adebayo, and Mitchell Robinson will make Love wish he would have retired after the Cavs cut him earlier this season. Not to mention the Heat branch, Caleb Martin, Cody Zeller, and the phat ass of Kyle Lowry are somehow worse than even the Cavs bench. As long as we limit their wide-open threes, their main bench contributors are incapable of on-the-ball action.
The biggest matchup will be on the sidelines between the two best coaches in the Eastern Conference: Erik Spoelstra and Tom Thibodeau. Spoelstra has always been one of the league’s best in-game and game-to-game adjusters. This season, thanks to much-needed evolution, Thibodeau joins him in that rarefied air. Spoelstra has been doing it for 13 years, winning two championships in the process. The ghost of Udonis Haslem might still haunt Miami, but he doesn’t have Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh on the roster anymore. It’s just Butler, who plays like a superstar in the playoffs but can’t do it all by himself for another grueling playoff series. Containing the other guys will be Thibs top priority. The Heat had five main guys shoot over 41% from three against the Bucks, and Duncan Robinson shot 73%. LOL. That will not continue against the Knicks, who have the best-ranked defense in the playoffs thus far.
The key to the series is containing Butler and especially Adebayo’s playmaking ability. Both are well above-average facilitators, and when they draw the defense toward them, it leaves their catch-and-shoot experts on the perimeter wide open. Mike Budenholzer only doubled Butler seven times in the whole series. That will not be the case with Thibs, who knows Butler’s game better than anybody, as Butler played for him in Chicago and Minnesota. As well, Josh Hart should be the primary defender on Butler, and nobody played better defense on Butler this season than Hart. In the 106 possessions that Hart guarded Butler this season, Butler only managed 21 points on 6-22 shooting (27.3%). This was good for Butler’s worst offensive matchup of the season. Hart will earn a hefty payday in this series. Let’s go Knicks!
This will be a heavyweight bout between two teams filled with dawgs. The Knicks will punch first, thanks to having the Garden faithful behind them, and take Game 1 at home by single digits.