Prelude to a 7-game series?
Miami will take their talent to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks. If the playoffs started today, these two would clash in the first round in a 2nd vs. 7th seed matchup. So, will this game indicate what would happen in a series? Doubtful, but it’s not because Amare Stoudemire is sidelined. And Jeremy Lin won’t be healthy to suit up until an Eastern Conference Finals matchup, if New York makes it that far. Nor does it derive from which players are in the lineup for Miami.
Heat fans would love to see their team rebound from a tough week in which they lost to the Bulls and Celtics. More than that, this squad is struggling to win games against teams with a winning record. Since the All-Star break Miami has lost to: Jazz, Lakers, Pacers twice, Celtics twice, and Bulls twice. They also split against the Orlando, Philadelphia, and OKC, with a mediocre 13-10 record. Miami hopefuls remain optimistic, because this team finished with the 2nd seed last year and beat the Bulls in 5 games to reach the finals.
LeBron James: “We need to play well because we haven’t played well after the break on the road,” said MVP candidate LeBron James. “I don’t know if it’s a statement game, but we want to play better than we have on the road. It’s a good place to play knowing more than likely we’ll play them in the first round.”
As for their counterpart, the big apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. The Knicks are also 13-10 since the break, but have played at a higher level, winning 13 of their last 17 games. Carmelo Anthony has been as hot as anyone in basketball, flourishing in the absence of Amare Stoudemire, and the Knicks have played intense defense since coach Mike Woodson took over. They have momentum heading into this game, but they are still working to gel and fighting for their playoff lives. Will this offense continue to roll when Stoudemire returns in the postseason?
“We want to protect our home court,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We want to make this one of the toughest places to come in and play and come in and win, and as of late we’ve been doing that and we want to keep that going. It’s another big game for us, another exciting game. It’ll be fun, the Garden will be rocking. Everybody will be watching. What better game to play in then Sunday against Miami?”
It may be a playoff series preview, but expect to see a vanilla gameplan so they don’t tip their hand if they were to lock up in the first round. Miami will bring an effort to turn their slump around, and New York needs to punch their postseason ticket because they are in a tight race with Philadelphia and Milwaukee for the last two spots. Nonetheless, this will be an exciting game with a playoff feel in the Garden.