The New York Knicks and the Miami Heat is possibly the most intriguing first round matchup in this year's NBA Playoffs. It features a multitude of superstars and reignites a fierce rivalry from the 1990's. Most people have picked the Heat to win the entire eastern conference, but experts also advise not to overlook the Knicks. The Knicks will have to play their best to have a chance against the Super Friends, and much of the pressure will be put on Carmelo Anthony. There's no doubt that Melo will have to play well, but keep in mind that his 42-17-6 performance against the Celtics in Game 2 last year concluded with a 96-93 loss. I feel good assuming that Melo will do his part, but there are many other players who will have to perform well to give the Knicks a shot at advancing.
Tyson Chandler needs to return to being... Tyson Chandler. Through the last 5 games of the season he's averaged 7 rebounds and .8 blocks per game - those numbers need to come up. His 5 rebound 0 block performance against the Heat two weeks ago will absolutely not fly in the playoffs. I'm hoping that he was trying to take it easy on his banged up body, but we'll see. He gets my vote for defensive player of the year and is essential to the Knick defense. He needs to stay out of foul trouble so he can stay on the floor and be aggressive down the stretch. Now I'm hearing he'll likely miss Game 1 with the flu, which is terrible news. I give the Knicks close to no chance if he's not on the floor.
Amar'e Stoudemire needs to give the Knicks some kind of defense and rebounding. Just give them anything in those areas. I'm not saying he's got to be Rodman, he just has to stop being a 10-year-old girl. He has to be in the right spot, not let people go right around him, and not back away from contact. And please, BOX OUT on the defensive glass. I see him standing around watching people jump in front for an offensive board more than anyone else in the league. If he can do a little of those two things, plus get his jumper to fall, he'll be a big difference-maker in the series.
Iman Shumpert has the ability to dominate a game defensively, but he'll sometimes pull a Houdini. Starting tomorrow, he has to play consistent defense and make Wade afraid to drive into the paint. He's got to be smart with his jump shot on offense - no more pull up transition jumpers. He'll be able to electrify the Garden crowd with big dunks, but has to make sure he doesn't keep letting the ball slip out of his hand when he's ready to cram.
There are some situations in which I love Landry Fields, but there are some situations in which I hate him. The series against the Heat falls under the latter. He simply can't guard Wade or LeBron, but he will still have an opportunity to contribute. The Knicks need Fields to come off the bench and stuff the stat sheet while the stars get some rest - hit some shots, move the ball, grab some boards, and play some D.
Baron Davis has been interesting to watch this season. Sometimes he looks like Boom Dizzle, sometimes he looks like Grandpa Davis. He's been fighting back and calf injuries all season, but now it's time to leave it all on the floor. He doesn't need to do anything spectacular, just move the ball and be smart with it - no stupid turnovers. Hitting the occasional open jumper and getting Amar'e going on the pick and roll could make a big difference.
Not much to say about JR Smith, just that the Knicks have to hope that he's good JR and not spontaneous-launch-pad JR.
And we all know Steve Novak will be draining threes the whole series.
If these players can give these contributions against the Heat, I like the Knicks to win this series. The problem, however, is that I don't know if we can count on all of them to play that way. We'll see tomorrow...