Matchup Summary: The Miami Heat took the season series from the New York Knicks 3-0. The Knicks have had a roller coaster season, boasting what it seems to be like five different teams. The Knicks have improved drastically under interim coach Mike Woodson, playing top notch defense, and Carmelo Anthony is playing the best all-around basketball of his career. LeBron James is having an MVP season for the Heat, and along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, are ready to take their first step to win the first of the six or seven titles they promised. These two teams have a storied history from their rivalry in the 1990s. The defining moment being when the eighth-seeded Knicks upset the first-seeded Heat in the first round of the 1999 playoffs. For the Knicks to have a chance in this series, they have to make it a half-court game, and Carmelo must continue to play all-world basketball. Amar’e Stoudamire, Tyson Chandler, and the bench must contribute strongly. If the Heat can create turnovers, and get out on the break, this will be a short series for New York.
Point Guard: Baron Davis versus Mario Chalmers
Baron Davis assumed the starting point guard duties after Jeremy Lin went down with a knee injury. Davis is a shell of his former self as a result of age and injuries, but is able, for the most part, to adequately run the offense. He provides veteran leadership, and is still a confident competitor. He no longer has the supreme athleticism that he once had, but he can still hurt you at times if you are not careful. Mario Chalmers’ main role on the Heat is to spread the floor and provide a three-point threat, where he is shooting around 40% this season. Chalmers is not really the “point guard” on this team, as LeBron James handles that role for most of the important parts of the game. Overall this matchup is a wash, with Baron Davis being more important to the Knicks success than Chalmers to the success of the Heat.
Shooting guard: Iman Shumpert versus Dwayne Wade
Shumpert has been a nice surprise in his inaugural season, already becoming one of the best defenders in the league, in addition to having a lot of offensive potential. He can be an X factor for the Knicks, as he can create havoc on defense, and when he is hitting his jump shot, he becomes a legitimate offensive threat. But right now he is no Dwyane Wade. Wade is averaging 22 points per game to Shumpert’s 9 points per game, and has continued to be one of the league’s best scorers and finishers. Wade steps his game up when the stakes are higher, so you can expect him to have a big series.
Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony vs LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony has arguably “revitalized” his career under Mike Woodson, after going through much scrutiny from the New York fans and media under for Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni. Anthony led the league in scoring in April with 31 points per game, and has noticeably showed more effort and improvement on defense. His signature moment came versus Chicago, when he hit three pointers at the end of regulation and overtime to lead the Knicks to a big victory. He is playing as good as anyone in the league right now, and his confidence is soaring. James, however, is having another MVP season, averaging 27 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. He is the Heat’s best play maker, and can conceivably guard all five positions on the floor. Anthony may be a better overall “pure” scorer, but LeBron is simply far and away the best all-around player in the league.
Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire versus Chris Bosh
This is another matchup that is pretty even. Their stats are almost identical across the board. Bosh 18 points, Amar’e 17.4, and each averaged 7.9 rebounds, shooting 48-49% from the field. Amar’e is coming off a back injury, but looks to be fine. Stoudemire provides more of a physical presence, but Bosh is more accurate with his jump shooting. Stoudemire is more important to the Knicks as he is their second option on offense, while Bosh is the Heat’s third. For the Knicks to win the series, Stoudamire has to win this matchup. That is not true for the Heat and Bosh. This could be the battle that determines the series.
Center: Tyson Chandler versus Joel Anthony
Tyson Chandler has come to New York and changed their mentality on defense. He is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and leads the league in field goal percentage. He provides energy and leadership, and is an intimidator in the paint. He gives the Knicks numerous extra possessions by tapping out offensive rebounds. Chandler is invaluable to the Knicks, as they give up over 10 more points per game when he is out. Joel Anthony’s role on the Heat is basically to provide girth in the middle. He does not have a major impact for this team.
Bench: Smith/ Novak /Fields/ Jeffries / Bibby versus Miller / Haslem / Battier / Jones / Cole
The Knicks bench under the alias “Mobb Deep” is probably the deepest in the league. Steve Novak leads the league in three-point shooting, and is poised to set an NBA record for most percentage of a player’s total points being from three-point range. J.R. Smith can be erratic at times but provides scoring and defense off the bench, and if he gets hot can be as good a scorer as anyone. Fields provides intangibles and is capable of impacting games when he plays with confidence. Jared Jeffries can be a defensive stopper. Mike Miller is the Heat’s shooter off the bench, while Battier is a defensive presence capable of hitting spot up threes. Jones is another shooter, and Haslem provides experience. Norris Cole started the year off hot, but has been in and out of the rotation since. Overall the Knicks bench is more of a threat, and is more important to their team’s success.
Coach: Mike Woodson versus Steve Spoelstra
Mike Woodson has turned the Knicks around since taking over for D’Antoni. The Knicks are now one of the better defensive teams in the league, and Carmelo Anthony has resurfaced. In his previous years with the Hawks, they improved each year and he led them to the playoffs. Spoelstra has done a nice job with the Heat, but of course he is blessed with two of the best in James and Wade. Woodson may be the key reason that the Knicks are where they are now, a relevant team in the playoffs.
Series Prediction: Heat in 6