The regular season has come to a conclusion, and the always exciting playoffs await. Miami Heat finished 2nd in the Eastern conference and will take on the 7th seeded New York Knicks in a first round playoff series.
Regular season series
It is always stressed how the regular season doesn’t really matter, and anything can happen in the playoffs. Even so, taking a look at the regular season series can give us a good indication as to how the two teams match up. Miami swept the season series against the Knicks winning all 3 games.
Taking a glance at the basic stats we can see that Miami were way ahead in field goal percentage, shooting 47% from the field while holding the Knicks to a mere 39%. Miami is the stronger rebounding team, and outrebounded New York 44.3 to 37.7 in the regular season games. Having really good perimeter shooters in J.R Smith and Steve Novak, the Knicks shot a staggering 38% from the 3-point line against the Heat, while Miami only connected on 24% of their shots beyond the arc. On average Miami outscored the Knicks 98 to 87.3.
Miami clearly dominated the regular season series, but the Knicks were slumping early in the season, and picked up the pace along the way.
How Miami can win
Miami are coming into the series as the favorites, and the key will obviously be the play of the big 3. LeBron James is in the talks for defensive player of the year award this season, and despite being notorious for coming up short in 4th quarters, James rarely falters on the defensive end. The Knicks are very dangerous when Carmelo Anthony is on fire, and LeBron will be put on the duty to shut him down. LeBron will most likely be taking down the MVP award of the regular season, and with the amazing numbers he has put up you can only hope he carries that momentum into the playoffs. He has been dominant in all aspects, throughout the year, and if he’s at his best Miami are unstoppable.
Dwyane Wade has battled injury throughout the season, and dislocated his left index finger only a week ago. When Wade is healthy he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the league and is vital for the success of the Heat. He will obviously have to play with some discomfort, but since he injured the finger on his off-hand, it shouldn’t affect his shooting all that much. Wade is one of the best clutch players in the league, and his presence will be crucial in this series.
Chris Bosh has sat out quite a few games towards the end of the season, resting up for the playoffs. In order for Miami to beat the Knicks he has to constantly be involved in the offense. Amar’e isn’t the sharpest defender and if Bosh goes up against him he will have use his low-post game as well as his mid-range jumper efficiently.
The role players will also have to step up. Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem will all need to be at their best. Miller creates more offensive alternatives outside the big 3. Haslem will need to crash the boards and hustle like he always does. Chalmers, Battier and Jones will need to knock down the 3-point shot more consistently than they’ve done lately. Ronny Turiaf has been injured but is also important on both ends of the floor. Joel Anthony has seen limited minutes, but if Turiaf isn’t healthy he will need to play hard and hustle like he always does.
How the Knicks can win
Not many believe that the Knicks can actually beat the Heat in a 7-game series, but they definitely have potent weapons that can drag out the series and perhaps cause an upset. The play of Carmelo Anthony is going to be crucial. The Miami defence will be all over him, and he will have to hit contested jumpers, attack the basket and find his teammates. Towards the end of the season we saw a different Carmelo Anthony – one that wasn’t reluctant to hitting an open teammate, even if it meant giving up his own shot.
Amar’e Stoudemire is back off an injury and has been looking pretty solid lately. He will need to find a way to incorporate himself in the Knicks offense together with Anthony.
When you think about the Knicks, you don’t think about defense. The matter of the fact is that, following the coaching change, the Knicks have been one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are ranked 5th in the league in defensive efficiency, just behind the Heat who are 4th. Tyson Chandler is one of the best defenders in the league, while the rookie Iman Shumpert has also established himself as a very strong defender. For the Knicks to even have a chance in the series they will have to keep up the defensive mentality and grind it out in every single game.
You would think that with terrific shooters in J.R Smith and Steve Novak the Knicks are a proficient three point shooting team. The fact is that they are currently ranked 21st in the league in 3 point percentage, yet the only team who shoots more threes than the Knicks are the Orlando Magic. A lot of their offense comes from three point range, and their shooters will have to knock down their shots consistantly.
I think that the Heat will win the series, but it is very hard to predict how many games it will take. Wade and Bosh have both missed games, and they might come into the series slightly out of rhythm. The question is how many games it will take to retain that rhythm. The x-factor in the series is going to be the Bosh – Stoudemire match up, and it will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand there. If the Knicks shoot well and defend with the same intensity they have as of late, I think they can extend the series, but will not beat the Heat who also have home-court advantage.
Prediction: Miami to win the series 4-1