The great Green bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't everything, but winning is the only thing."
Heading into tonight's matchup vs. the red hot Miami Heat, the improving New York Knicks might be thinking more along the lines of "Winning would be a lovely thing, but not getting blown out would be a rather outstanding thing as well."
Assuming the Knicks were even able to circumvent travel restrictions in snow bound New York and make it down to sunny, but not quite so warm at this point of the year, Miami, their goal of course will be to beat the Heat in front of a potentially frenzied crowd made up of Floridian persons born and bred, and no shortage of transplanted and/or vacationing New Yorkers who enjoy invading the downtown American Airlines Arena when their hometown team comes to town.
Back in the day, the Heat and Knicks were fierce, physical rivals that made for some very compelling drama. Not so much though so these past several years while the Heat have subsequently rebuilt the organization first through the additions of Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, and now with the tremendous trio readily known as James, Bosh, and the aforementioned Wade who is leading the way on a 15 of 16 stretch that has regularly featured double-digit wins and any number of full-on decimation's of so-called National Basketball Association competitive forces.
One of those maulings came in New York's Madison Square Garden two weeks ago when the Heat pulled away in the second half to hand it on the chin to the then surging Knicks 113-91, though New York gave a pretty good indication of how exactly they might be able to keep up with or even overcome the Heat with hot a shooting first half that left the game tied at 57.
Running Knickerbocker coach Mike D'Antoni non-stop offensive press New York leads the league in scoring at 108 per clip and in reality what it will take to beat the Heat. At least the theory is simple enough: Some aggressive defense, which the Knicks have been playing of late in their mini bounce back from a recent three game losing streak, and, well, about 120 points on the board.
That may seem like no mean feat on an opposition court, much less Miami's, but the Knicks have managed to topple the 120 mark five times this season and not coincidentally are 5-0 in those encounters.
The Heat, for all the talent of the Big Three, who are averaging about 65 between them, (figure that number could be as high as seventy-five if they weren't spending so much big lead, fourth quarter time laughing and giving each other high fives from the end of the bench). They don't have much in the way of firepower anywhere else, at least until sharp shooter Mike Miller, finally back from a season long injury gets percolating, and they've been winning most of their games scoring 95, 100, 105 points.
(In fact Miami averages right around 100 points per game, the caveat being they're only allowing 90 per contest, a plus ten differential, while the Knicks allow close to 107, the skinniest of all plus side differentials, just about one per game.)
Now, does that mean the blazing hot Heat can't run it up on the New York Knicks? Match the visitors bucket for bucket and then some. Certainly not, and no one in the NBA universe would be surprised to see them knock the New Yorkers back to frozen hell tonight.
But that will be a lot harder to do if the young, Amar'e Stoudemire, ( 26.2 ppg, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) led New Yorkers come out smoking like they did in the Garden, only this time manage to keep it up for 48 minutes.
To that end, they might want to consider taking it hard to the hoop with frequency instead of hoisting up endless three pointers because for all of Miami's strengths a devastating defensive middle, Erik Dampier and the Big Z notwithstanding, is not one of them. If the Knicks can get to the line—where the New Yorkers deposit 80 percent, second in the league—similar to the way the slashing Heat figure to get to the line all night (28 attempts per game—third in the league) that'll be as strong an indication as any that they can at least make a game of it this evening in chilly South Beach.
And wouldn't that be awesome; a taut, thrilling battle between former fierce rivals with fans from both cities ready to resume that particular notion even if they haven't stopped hating each others teams while Miami has generally run roughshod over the Knicks for most of the past decade.
That's just part of the juxtaposition, that New York—Miami thing. We love to visit each others' cities, party in each others' cities, even move to each other cities. But we hate each others' teams and that seems like it will go on for all eternity.
So why not mix in a return to one of the fiercest rivalries the NBA has known in the past twenty five years? Certainly the Miami Heat are stocked and ready. Tonight we get to find out if the New York Knicks are too.
That's it for today,