MIAMI – Anybody hoping for anything remotely resembling the old Heat-Knicks rivalry in this year’s opening-round playoff series must have been smoking crack.
The Knicks are bad. They’re poorly constructed, injured, and lack strong leadership.
Look at Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire punching a fire extinguisher after Monday’s Game 2 loss and possibly sidelining himself for Games 3 and 4. Ridiculous. Heat forward James Jones, a teammate in Phoenix, said he’s not surprised by Stoudemire’s emotional reaction. He said it’s frustration surfacing.
The Knicks are falling apart. We all can see that.
There’s nothing left in this series except whether the Heat can sweep. Anything else would be a huge disappointment.
The Heat are clearly the better team. That was never in doubt. Now, New York is reeling. Miami needs to show it can finish the job. Quickly.
But can the Miami Heat, a team that has battled a short attention span for the last six weeks, stay focused long enough to finish this terrible Knicks team off in four games?
Can this Heat team show killer instinct at Madison Square Garden, site of Games 3 and 4?
The Knicks are teetering on the brink of meltdown. And it’s hard to blame them. They’re like a revolving door of talent. They fired former coach Mike D’Antoni. They hired current coach Mike Woodson. They had Jeremy Lin. They lost Jeremy Lin. They had Carmelo Anthony. They lost Carmelo Anthony. They had Amare Stoudemire. They lost Amare Stoudemire. It’s been a crazy year.
And that brings us back to Stoudemire punching that fire extinguisher…
Heat forward LeBron James took the high road.
“I think it’s very unfortunate,” James said in the postgame lockerroom. “You never want someone to have an injury either when you’re out playing or off the floor. Hopefully it’s not as bad or whatever. I don’t know. But my focus is right here, right now on in this lockerroom on us trying to get better and prepare for Game 3.”
We’ll see if that happens.
James has the right idea. He needs to focus on the Heat, not Stoudemire’s possible absence. Because while the Knicks are horrible, they have professional pride, and they have legitimate players who can do legitimate damage. J.R. Smith and Steve Novak still haven’t made their presence felt. Neither has Tyson Chandler, for that matter. These guys won’t go down quietly.
“We’re going to see a totally different team,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said.
That could be problematic for Miami. Set aside, for a second, what you’ve seen in these first two games. They were at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami was 28-5 at home during the regular season, tied with San Antonio for best home record.
And this Big Three-led Heat squad struggled to find its way for much of the last month and a half.
Remember, Miami went 4-8 in its first dozen road games after the All-Star break, with losses at Oklahoma City, Indiana, Boston and Chicago among them. The reasons for the losses ranged from general malaise to flat-out getting beaten. But the point is they were all winnable games that the Heat blew.
So now the Heat, holding a commanding 2-0 lead over the struggling Knicks, go to Madison Square Garden, Broadway, a place where both James and Dwyane Wade have had some of the best games of their careers.
“It’s no secret that besides the American Airlines Arena it’s my favorite place to play,” Wade said of the Garden.
Miami needs to finish the job in a hurry.
This series was a mismatch from the start. It was nothing like those great series of yesteryear. Back in the day the Heat-Knicks series was closely matched. In the 1999 season, for example, Heat-Knicks was a No. 1 vs. 8 matchup, but New York, the eighth seed, was good. In fact, New York was better. The Knicks won that series in five games. The teams were that closely matched despite their seeding. As you know, each of the four years those teams met (1997-2000) the series went the distance.
This year’s Heat-Knicks series won’t be anything close to those days.
The Heat needs to ensure that by completing the sweep. Anything less would be a disappointment.
Chris Perkins is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com, covering the NBA and the Miami Heat. His columns regularly appear every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter.