It's been a good season so far for the New York Knicks. There have been some hiccups along the way, but with under 30 games to go they are in the hunt for one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.
With the Miami Heat playing so well, it's unlikely they'll be able to catch them for the first seed, but the Knicks definitely have a shot at finishing a close second, with the hope of eventually meeting them in the conference finals.
As good as the Heat are—and let's just clear up right now that they are undeniably the better team—the Knicks do match up well with them, and would be in with a chance of winning a seven-game series against Miami.
Looking at the way New York is built, it's clear the front office specifically wants to attack Miami's weaknesses. We've seen proof of this twice already this season with two blowout victories, one of which came without Carmelo Anthony, who sat with injury.
Both times, the Knicks shot the lights out, and its ability to bombard teams from outside is the main reason it won the two games.
Last year against Miami in the playoffs, there weren't enough shooters, and it was easy for the Heat to shut down the likes of Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. Now, however, the Knicks play small and move the ball a lot better, and on top of that, it has Jason Kidd—another great shooter—in the lineup.
With Tyson Chandler at center, the Knicks clearly have the advantage in the middle. He has the size to effectively out-rebound the Heat single-handedly, creating chances and allowing the rest of the team to play to their strengths on the perimeter.
Despite losing in five last year, things are different now, and the Knicks should be a lot more competitive if they get another chance to take on the Heat.
First off, the injury situation shouldn't be so bad. Last time out, Iman Shumpert, Amar'e Stoudemire, Baron Davis and Jeremy Lin all missed time, whilst Chandler struggled with the flu.
More to the point, the Knicks now have a point guard in Raymond Felton who can penetrate and wreak havoc for Miami. He had a season-high 27 points the last time the two teams faced up, and takes the pressure off Melo to have the offense run through him every possession.
Former Dallas Mavericks Kidd and Chandler are now back together, and they've won five straight against the Heat dating back to the 2011 Finals. They have their number and know exactly how to get under their skin defensively.
If Melo can keep playing at an MVP-level—which will be tough when matched up against LeBron James—it will open things up for his teammates and allow them to flourish in their roles.
Because what Miami does is so focused on its big three, New York's depth will definitely come into play here.
The Knicks have four players who can realistically score 20 on any given night—five if you include Chandler and his huge height advantage—and this will make a big difference.
New York's bench is obviously a huge area of strength. In J.R. and STAT, the Knicks have two of the best sixth men in the league, and Stoudemire in particular is a player who could be dominant against Miami's mediocre bigs.
With Kidd and Felton running the show, the Knicks are also a team that rarely turns the ball over. This is particularly important against the Heat, as it takes away a huge part of their offense on the fast-break.
In the form of LeBron, however, the Heat hold the single biggest advantage of all. As usual, New York will struggle to slow him down, and will have to do it as a team with no-one who can cause him much trouble one-on-one.
And it's for that reason—along with their elite defense—that the Heat are still the better team, even with the Knicks targeting their weak spots.
Still, New York should not be counted out in a seven-game series. They, too, are an elite team, and as we should see this Sunday, match up very well with the reigning champs.
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