Before the start of the New York Knicks game versus the Charlotte Bobcats and the Philadelphia 76ers game against the Detroit Pistons, it was announced that Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis would sit the game out. Additionally, Evan Turner was quoted as saying that he felt the 76ers had a better chance against the Bulls than Miami.
Could it be that both teams, in their own way, were trying to avoid matching up with the team that every NBA analyst has told us has "deep structural flaws?"
That seems unlikely, especially with Chandler suggesting this week that he knew what it took to beat the Heat and Anthony saying that he would love to play Miami if that was their eventual matchup.
Then both teams went out and showed how actions and words can sometimes be very different animals.
The Knicks played a terrible game. They were missing layups with not a soul around them, taking bad shots with time still on the shot clock and allowing the Bobcats to get open three-attempt after open three-attempt. Even the usually explosive J.R. Smith missed a dunk in ugly fashion causing him to come down awkwardly and ask to come out of the game. The Knicks were practically begging the Bobcats to win the game, but this being the Bobcats and all, the Knicks led by two at the half.
Meanwhile, the 76ers, usually such a tough and resilient team, no matter who they play, were playing one of their worst games in weeks as they got routed by the Pistons, 108-86.
The Knicks emerged from the locker room (possibly after checking the 76ers score and realizing that Philly had beaten them to the punch) would go on to play a much stronger second half and blow out the woeful Bobcats.
It's enough to compel a conspiracy theorist to surmise: Were they both trying to play the Bulls in the first round? For all the hype and bravado surrounding the Knicks right now largely because of the play of Carmelo Anthony, could the Knicks have been sending a signal that they don't want to play Miami despite the predictions made by some sports experts that a Heat-Knicks series could go the distance?
"This is just funny to watch," said Charles Barkley on TNT at the half of the Knicks-Bobcats debacle. "These team are trying their best to avoid the Miami Heat. I understand their point-of-view, but that Bulls team does have the MVP on it. They are a terrific team. Be careful what you wish for."
I'm pretty sure the Knicks and the 76ers know how good the Bulls are and don't think the Bulls would necessarily be an easy opponent. But when you consider what the Heat actually did to both teams in the regular season (beating the Knicks three times, twice by double figures, and hammering the 76ers in two games and then toying with them in the other two) accumulating a 7-0 record against them combined, it makes sense that they chose the team that they each managed to beat once this year.
It also helps that the Bulls best player is not 100 percent. That could give the 76ers an advantage if they can contain the Bulls role players, which won't be easy, but it is possible.
Nevertheless, this insistence to play Chicago could very well fuel the Bulls fire.
Their players (especially Carlos Boozer) and fans have constantly complained that despite winning the best record in the league in consecutive years, the Bulls are not respected like the other elite teams like Miami and San Antonio. This could be just the motivation they need to quiet their critics arguing that their "everyone does their job" style of offensive and defensive distribution does not work in the playoffs.
For the 76ers, winners of the "avoid the Heat" sweepstakes, it could be a very painful lesson this weekend.