Call me a homer if you want. I'm the first to admit it when it's true. Here's the thing, though, what I'm about to say is true no matter who you root for. The New York Knicks can beat the Miami Heat in the playoffs, and here's why.
Obviously, there are a few loose ends to tie up first. The Knicks have to win a few more games to lock up the seventh seed, and barring a Chicago collapse, the Heat are slated to finish second. Assuming everything happens as planned, the Knicks will play Miami in the first round.
And when that happens, the Knicks will give the Heat all they can handle.
There are dozens of ways to look at it, but here's the simplest way in my mind. Think of the Knicks like last year's Mavs.
Carmelo can play Dirk's role. He's playing out of his mind right now. Even if the Heat stick LeBron on him full time, at his current pace he should still be able to put up big numbers.
Tyson Chandler is obviously still Tyson Chandler. He's been fantastic all year long and knows how to keep LeBron and Wade out of the paint.
Iman Shumpert can play Shawn Marion's role in defending either LeBron or Wade. He's evolving into one of the league's top defenders, and Landry Fields can guard the other and do what DeShawn Stevenson did last year (minus the public intoxication, of course).
J.R. Smith can do what Jason Terry did. When he's hot, he's nearly impossible to guard, and he can hit several three-pointers in a row to swing the entire momentum of a game. Smith getting hot usually signals good things for the Knicks.
While Baron Davis isn't the defender Jason Kidd was last year (I can't see him checking LeBron or Wade), he's the same steady hand at the point. He's a veteran who's played his part in one of the biggest playoff upsets of all time. He'll know what to do when things get tough.
And that's not even mentioning Amar'e Stoudemire. So just throw another All-Star into the mix. The Knicks are set up to emulate the model the Mavericks used last year to suffocate the Heat. Can they do it as well? We'll see, but there are some other factors here to consider.
What happens when things get tight? The Knicks have one of the league's best closers in Anthony. The Heat have one of the league's best chokers in LeBron. I'm not quite sure how he did it, but it seems like he dragged Wade down with him. Both have failed time after time in the clutch this year.
What's going to happen to them in a close game at MSG? The crowd's going wild, Carmelo and Smith have just hit back-to-back threes, I have a hard time believing LeBron can match that in such a hostile environment. The combination of LeBron and The Garden has the potential to create some epic crunch-time failures.
What about injuries? Other than the notable absence of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks seem to be getting healthier in time for the playoffs. The Heat on the other hand look sore. Wade left last night's game after three minutes. LeBron and Chris Bosh didn't even play. They aren't seriously hurt, but even the slightest soreness can make a difference in the spring.
Finally, I have no idea if the stats back this up, but if you've been watching them, I think it's fairly obvious that this year's Heat are worse than last year's version. Last year they started out slow and then heated up (pun intended) for the playoffs.
But this year? They've struggled mightily in the second half. LeBron and Wade have taken their hot potato act to a whole new level; there are times when it legitimately seems like one of them isn't on the court.
Shane Battier hasn't done nearly what they would have hoped, Norris Cole hasn't lived up to the promise he showed earlier in the year (remember when we were calling him the fourth Heatle?) and I still don't trust Eric Spoelstra to come up with a playoff rotation. Last year, he just stopped playing James Jones in the middle of the conference finals. Jones was arguably their fourth-best player.
Here's the bottom line. I wouldn't bet my life on the Knicks beating the Heat in a seven-game series.
But do I think it's possible? Of course!
The Heat are vulnerable, and as far as seven seeds go, you'd be hard pressed to find one with more talent than the Knicks. I think the Knicks are going to give Miami a series to remember.
And if they come out on top? Well, don't say I didn't warn you.
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