The 66-game regular season, mercifully, is over. The NBA jam-packed 66 games into a space where 50 usually went, and the result was a strange five-month run that had us talking about rested legs and oddball rotations more than we spoke of learning and growing and all that typically mindful stuff that comes to our heads when discussing the NBA. The playoffs start on Saturday, though, and the brains behind Ball Don't Lie are ready to break down the first round matchups.
We continue with the Miami Heat and New York Knicks.
From your pal, Kelly Dwyer
Hey. It's Kelly. That wasn't fun, was it? The silly lockout, the terrible season, the Dwight Howard. It's OK, though. It's over now. That is a bird chirping in the distance, I made a pretty good sandwich for your lunch and we don't have anything to do when you get home from work but watch a series of basketball games played by players that are rested, well-instructed, and mindful of what town they're in.
You're going to feel better, now. Your pal insists on it.
Well, fine. If noted Knick fan and fanciful Ball Don't Lie associate editor Dan Devine wants to act like an honorary Chicagoan, and tell you that his hometown (until October, at least) club doesn't stand a chance against the Miami Heat, he's well within his rights to. I am a Chicagoan, and though I dislike using the word "hate" around you, my pals, I have reserved some enmity for the New York Knicks in my time spent as a basketball fan. For so long, and so deep into my childhood, that Bob Hill's image never recovered in my eyes.
But we're friends, now. The regular season is over, and I'm here to be your pal. And I'm also here to tell you that the New York Knicks, all sturdy with that defensive mindset and Tyson Chandler skulking around the paint in a surgical mask so as not to infect Norris Cole, could make a go of this. I understand the Heat ably held off the Knicks in New York a couple of weeks ago, but Madison Square Garden in early May is an entirely different beast altogether. Maybe it's just that organ, which frightened many a May of this Bulls fan growing up. Geez, my birthday is in May. Thanks a lot, Knicks.
The Heat, and we apologize that your pal is turning into a downer, aren't exactly the type to finish a team off when it's down. I absolutely believe the Knicks, and that defense, can work wonders in a big win in New York in Game 3, possibly Game 4, or at the very least a back-to-the-wall Game 5 in Miami if the Heat take an advantageous 3-1 lead in Game 4.
Because you can discredit Carmelo Anthony, Mike Woodson, and the Knick organization all you'd like to — we've certainly filled these pages with plenty of that over the years. Anthony's up and down play this year is a little distasteful, and the Knicks' ownership group is a whole lot of distasteful.
They can also, Tyson Chandler's health-willing (he's likely to miss Game 1 with the flu), really defend. And the Heat, even 18 months after the team's first in-season introduction, still don't like to be pushed around. If you have size and toughness and an attitude, you can get to them. You also have to utilize sprightly legs, which the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls absolutely could not last season.
The Knicks have those legs. And I think my prediction has legs. And while I wouldn't want to use my legs in an attempt to out-pace the great Dan Devine, I think the Knicks will be around for a little while. Just a little while longer, pals.
Miami in six.
'Deep Thoughts' and Cheap Thoughts with Dan Devine
For every postseason matchup, Ball Don't Lie's resident dummy will offer a topically appropriate entry from the best-selling series of "Deep Thoughts" books written by legendary humorist Jack Handey, plus some of his own original thoughts on the playoff series. The combination will cost you literally nothing; we suggest you use the savings to purchase one of Mr. Handey's life-changing books.
No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 New York Knicks
"Consider the daffodil. And while you're doing that, I'll be over here, looking through your stuff."
The first time the Heat and Knicks played, Carmelo Anthony was hurt, New York starting point guard Toney Douglas missed 12 of 18 shots and Bill Walker scored 21 points off the bench. The Knicks lost by 10.
The second time the Heat and Knicks played, Carmelo Anthony played badly, New York starting point guard Jeremy Lin missed 10 of 11 shots and J.R. Smith scored 14 points off the bench. The Knicks lost by 14.
The third time the Heat and Knicks played, Carmelo Anthony played great, New York starting point guard Baron Davis missed five of six shots and J.R. Smith scored 16 points off the bench. The Knicks lost by eight.
In those three games, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade scored a combined 158 points. With the exception of some harassment of Wade by rookie guard Iman Shumpert, when they were stopped, it was largely their own doing.
I'm supposed to believe things will be different in the playoffs … why, exactly?
Because Amar'e Stoudemire looked good against the Atlanta Hawks playing a five-spot he won't regularly inhabit because Tyson Chandler's going to be there? Because the Knicks hit 35 percent of their 3-pointers in April, up from their 33.6 percent season average? Because J.R. Smith is going to shoot the Knicks into a win like he did the Nuggets back in Game 5 of 2010? Because even if Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler can show the capacity to successfully coexist on the offensive end without choking the life out of each other's space, the two best players in the series — hell, in the conference — don't still reside on the other team?
If you say so, (fellow) Knicks fans. Go ahead and keep pondering a world in which this outcome could be something more beautiful. I'm gonna go raid your fridge.
PREDICTION: Heat in four.
Five Predictions for Miami vs. New York, From the Sensible Eric Freeman
1. Carmelo Anthony will have one incredible game in which the Knicks fall short anyway.
2. LeBron James will not perform especially well in the fourth quarter, but it won't matter because the Heat will be in control regardless.
3. Dwyane Wade will be the best player in the series.
4. Mike D'Antoni will cackle from his couch.
5. Heat in five.
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