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Knicks Better Off with Boston or Miami?

The Knicks have fought their way back up to the sixth seed in the playoff standings. They are back to where they’ve been for most of the season. There is however still a chance for the Philadelphia 76ers to retain the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. In either scenario, the Knicks potential first round matchup would be between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. The Heat have won an important game against Boston on Sunday. They managed to take the second seed with a 56-24 record.

By: Tim Ahmed

The Knicks have fought their way back up to the sixth seed in the playoff standings.  They are back to where they’ve been for most of the season.  There is however still a chance for the Philadelphia 76ers to retain the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.  In either scenario, the Knicks potential first round matchup would be between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.  The Heat have won an important game against Boston on Sunday.  They managed to take the second seed with a 56-24 record. 

That position may be temporary since there are only two more games left in the season.  There may be a lot of rearranging in the Eastern Conference standings, which will make a big impact on the postseason.

If the playoffs were to end today, the Knicks would face the Boston Celtics.  Each of the last three games between these two teams has been very physical.   All of these games were closely contested, where the game was decided within the last 2 minutes.  New York has lost all three of them.

Yet, the Celtics have been struggling as of late.  They lost half of the last ten games.  Their most recent loss against Miami may be crucial, and take away their chances of grabbing the second seed.  Ever since Kendrick Perkins had been traded to Oklahoma City, the Celtics have shown some weakness.  I don’t understand why they are not playing at a high level when Perkins hadn’t played most of the season.  Nenad Krstic is their center after the trade.  He has proven to take on the role very well, and he may remain a starter.

Shaquille O’Neal was their first starting center.  O’Neal briefly arrived back onto the court after missing many games with an Achilles’ injury, only to be sidelined for another week with a strained calf.  They have gotten Jermaine O’Neal back from a knee injury.  He has appeared much lighter in weight than previous years.  That may help him in the long run, but maybe not enough to make an impact this postseason.

I don’t think the centers would stop the Celtics from being effective in the playoffs.  Rajon Rondo has been having a spectacular season, averaging over 11 assists along with almost 10 points.  Paul Pierce still leads the team in scoring, while fellow all stars, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett follow a respectable amount.  They also have been getting good numbers from Glen Davis.

Boston won’t ever play soft against any squad in the postseason.  This defensive minded team led by Kevin Garnett, will push themselves to the limit against New York.  The Knicks will definitely have their defense tested as well.  They may need to be more efficient with the ball versus Boston. 

The player matchups would be interesting.  The Knicks will need to be very aware of Rondo’s precision passing.  Furthermore, if Amar’e Stoudemire guards Kevin Garnett, hear out for the emphasis on boxing out.

New York has a much better group of guys that score very well, but they need to step up with Carmelo Anthony during the final minutes of every game.  I expect Roger Mason to get in late in the game, for his history of shooting well in crunch time.  But most likely Coach D’Antoni would stick with Toney Douglas and Shawne Williams as the long ball specialists from the bench.  If not, Boston would take over with the scoring combo of Allen and Pierce.  Regardless, a New York and Boston rivalry will be a fun game to watch and really test the Knicks’ defensive abilities early in the playoffs.

If somehow, the Heat keep the second seed in the standings with New York dropping to seventh, or vice versa, New York would be heading to Miami to face the Heat.  This would be considered the most popular first round playoff series by many fans and NBA analysts.

There is a lot of history in this matchup that started in the mid 1990’s where the rivalry was incredibly feisty.  Those two teams of the past played with a lot of energy, sometimes too much energy, resulting in numerous suspensions.  There was no respect between the two eastern forces then.  Fans are eager to see this rivalry renewed.

The times have changed now.  The star-studded team from South Beach had basketball fans thinking there is no possible way to stop this team.  Many could recall LeBron James’ pep rally speech about how they will not only win two championships in Miami, but potentially seven or eight. 

As the season progressed, the Heat were not living up to expectations; they weren’t performing well against the elite teams.  Coach Erik Spolestra had been greatly criticized for his young coaching experience.  Then the blame moved to the players.  Subsequently experts created a theory that James and Dwyane Wade cannot coexist on a championship caliber team.  Even Chris Bosh was teased of his role as the “big man”. 

Despite their rough season, they are still a strong team heading into the playoffs.  This is when teams show how well they can play on a consistent basis.  Championship teams of the past appear to underperform during the season, and rise up to the occasion when the postseason is around the corner.

Without the hype, New York matches up with the Heat pretty well.  They both don’t have a legitimate center, even if Eddy Curry had lost hundred pounds and joined Miami.  Both teams have point guards that have some good experience in the playoffs, as well as leadership skills.  Both even have three guys with an annual salary that’s over ten million dollars!

Miami has the star power to help their team, but their supporting cast isn’t supporting much.  Wade and James have been performing at a high level while the whole team isn’t putting enough effort every game.

The Knicks may have the edge because of their deep bench and guys who can do the intangibles like Landry Fields.  They both play an up-tempo offense, but New York wins that category because they have more options in the fast break.  These two teams are matched up so well that their confidence may be the big factor in the series.  If either side wants to win, the stars of each team will need to motivate their bench to do so.

The Celtics seem like the more realistic option versus New York, due their position in the standings.  Miami would most likely be a more reasonable matchup for the Knicks.  It is too hard to tell who New York will play in the first round.  This last week of the season will be intense for these three teams.  One game to watch is the Knicks last season game against Boston.  That game may decide their stand in the postseason.  They could see each other again in the playoffs, or play other teams in Miami and Philadelphia. 

The Knicks will certainly pay close attention to the possible shuffle in the standings due to this upcoming and busy week of basketball.

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