With Amar’e Stoudemire returning from his recent back injury that kept him out of 13 games this season, the Knicks now have a much better chance of defeating the Miami Heat in Round 1 of the playoffs.
I know the Heat blew them out 100-67 Saturday night.
I know Iman Shumpert tore his ACL and won’t be playing the remainder of the playoffs.
I know Tyson Chandler has the flu and didn’t look like himself at all in Game 1.
But this series is not over just yet. A win tonight for the Knicks erases Saturday’s dreadful series opener and restores confidence as the series heads to MSG for Games 3 and 4.
To get this done, though, Stoudemire is going to need to play like it’s 2007, when he was considered one of the most dominant power forwards in the game.
Here are three reasons why Stoudemire’s return will lead the Knicks past the Heat in Round 1.
The Knicks have huge matchup issues on defense against the Heat when Stoudemire isn’t in the lineup.
When STAT wasn’t playing, the Knicks were sliding Carmelo Anthony over to start at power forward and Landry Fields was replacing him at small forward.
Anthony wouldn’t have a problem guarding Chris Bosh, who likes to play on the perimeter, but Fields just isn’t capable of guarding LeBron James. James is just too big and strong for Fields and would isolate on him as much as possible. He would be able to shoot over Fields with his height advantage or drive past him to the bucket with his enormous strength advantage.
I really don’t see any way the Knicks would be able to compensate for this mismatch without Stoudemire in the lineup.
Even though I said Anthony would be able to guard Bosh, Stoudemire would definitely be the better fit out of the two to defend him.
Bosh likes to hang out closer to the three-point line than the basket and take jump shots. Stoudemire is a little taller than Melo and can use his long arms to get in Bosh’s face while he’s shooting.
Bosh also likes to fake his shot and try to take his man off the dribble to the basket. When healthy, STAT is quicker than Melo and would have a better chance of staying in front of Bosh as he drives.
If Bosh were a back to the basket, post-up type of player, then Anthony would probably be the better defender on him since he is the stronger of the two. But since Bosh is not, Stoudemire gives the Knicks the best chance at stopping Bosh.
If the Knicks want to win this series, Anthony is going to need to outduel James. If STAT doesn’t play, this matchup doesn’t happen.
Anthony is notorious for not giving effort on defense, but he is really the only player the Knicks have who is physically capable of defending LeBron. Here is what ESPN’s Ian Begley had to say about this potential defensive matchup,
“When Anthony's committed to playing defense, he can get stops. When he isn't, he can hurt the Knicks. You can be sure that he'll play with intensity in his matchup with James, whom he's gone toe-to-toe with since high school. But if he's not on top of his game defensively, the Knicks are in trouble.”
If Anthony can somehow win the individual battle with James, Stoudemire and the rest of the team should be able to pull out the win for the Knicks.