Many predictions were made going into these playoffs.
What the postseason has proven so far in regards to these predictions is that they are nothing but a fancy term for “guessing.”
The teams mentioned above are set to play Thursday night, with two teams facing “must-win” situations at home to avoid the historically dreaded 0-3 start.
Miami (2-0) at New York (0-2):
Jeremy Lin remains out, Iman Shumpert has a torn ACL, and now Amar’e Stoudemire is doubtful for the rest of the series after inflicting damage to his left hand that required minor surgery.
There has been much chatter and belief throughout the season that New York may be better off without Stoudemire because of his inability to co-exist with Carmelo Anthony. But at this point, the Knicks simply become even less talented against a Heat team that bleeds talent.
From Howard Beck of The New York Times: “Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have been together for 14 months, and they still do not function as a cohesive tag team. The Knicks are 50-50 since Anthony arrived (counting playoffs) and are 28-39 when Anthony and Stoudemire both play. Their longest winning streak this season came mostly without Anthony. Their April resurgence came mostly without Stoudemire. Every advanced metric imaginable indicates that the Anthony-Stoudemire tandem is unworkable, with the Knicks scoring less efficiently and defending less effectively when they share the court. As Tom Haberstroh — who mines statistics for ESPN.com— wrote Tuesday, “Playing Anthony and Stoudemire together was a lost cause.” Zach Lowe — writing for Sports Illustrated’s Web site — echoed the sentiment, writing “the Anthony/Stoudemire combination has been a disaster.” The shared conclusion is that the Knicks may be better off in this series without Stoudemire. Yet in the short term, no matter how badly their stars mesh, the Knicks have too little talent to withstand the loss. If this pairing is indeed a disaster, it is one the Knicks may be stuck with. Anthony, acquired at the 2011 trading deadline, is now the face of the franchise, for better or worse. He is here to stay. Stoudemire — who held face-of-the-franchise status for a mere seven months, before Anthony arrived — is probably not going anywhere, either. He is owed $65 million over the next three seasons, with a contract that is uninsured against knee injuries, making him a risk for all but the richest of franchises.”
In order for New York to have a chance against Miami, it must find a way to even out the free throw disparity. In other words, the Knicks have to get more aggressive.
From Jim Cavan of The New York Times: “Through the first two games of the playoffs, there has been much consternation about Miami’s notable free throw advantage over the Knicks, with the Heat having twice as many foul shots (60) as New York (30). Not surprisingly, such a deficit was reflected in a 48-34 foul disparity, including a 33-11 free throw differential in Game 1. But while it’s easy for Knicks fans to contemplate conspiracy theories, a quick glance at the numbers (provided by NBA.com) reveals how the Heat’s aggressiveness has helped contribute to the series’ scoring chasm – at the free throw line and beyond. Through the first two games, 35 percent of the Heat’s shot attempts have come from nine feet or less from the basket (50 of 153), with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and their teammates hitting at a gaudy 68 percent clip from that range (34 out of 50). While the Knicks have similarly attempted 35 percent of their shots in and around the paint (55 of 147), they’ve only converted on 53 percent of them. Likewise, though the two teams have attempted around the same number of shots from beyond 15 feet (78 for the Heat versus 73 for the Knicks), the Heat have connected at an efficient 51 percent, with the Knicks at a shade under 39 percent. That statistic becomes even more glaring when you consider that 70 percent of the Heat’s attempts from 15 feet and out have been assisted, compared to 35 percent of the Knicks’ made jumpers. Include all of the two teams’ field goal attempts, and the gulf remains, with the 61 percent of the Heat’s overall field goal attempts coming by way of the extra pass, versus just 41 percent for the Knicks.
From Bill Pennington of The New York Times: In an elaborate ceremony broadcast nationally by the N.B.A., center Tyson Chandler was named the league’s defensive player of the year — the first Knick to win the award. Chandler, signed as a free agent before this season, said he was especially happy to be recognized because he is not among the top players in either blocked shots or steals. “I play defense by being in the right position and in many other fundamental and not always flashy ways,” he said. “So I’m glad that was recognized. I’ve always wanted to be considered one of the top defensive players in the league. But the defensive player of the year often goes to a big name. It’s just a dream for it to come my way.”
Lin, perhaps the only glimmer of hope left for New York, experienced soreness in his left knee after going through full scrimmage Wednesday and all but ruled himself out for Game 4.
James had 32 points in Game 1, and Wade followed with 25 points in Game 2.
The team has yet to lose to New York this season, and both Wade and James figure to enjoy their time playing at the Madison Square Garden, too.
“I’ve had an opportunity to play a lot of games in that building, but none quite as big as these,” said James. “This is the Mecca of basketball and it comes with a little more incentive. There’s a lot of history in this building. But we understand what we’re there for.”
Added Wade, ”It’s no secret that besides the AmericanAirlines Arena, it’s is my favorite place to play. “I look forward to how this team is going to respond in a very hostile environment with the lights as bright as they can be.”
They will likely have to adjust their lineup now that Stoudemire is out, and they have the proper personnel to match up against a smaller but quicker Knicks lineup.
From Barry Jackson of Miami Herald: “With Stoudemire out for Game 3 (and according to the Knicks, likely beyond that), New York is expected to spread the floor more often and play a more perimeter-oriented lineup, with Carmelo Anthony switching from small forward to power forward. That puts the onus on the Heat to stick close to the Knicks’ three-point shooters. “That is exactly what we do,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “We have the speed, we have the IQ to chase those guys down.” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he has not settled on a new lineup. But his top options are shifting Landry Fields to small forward and starting J.R. Smith at shooting guard, or keep Fields at shooting guard and inserting Steve Novak at small forward. Toney Douglas and Jared Jeffries also could factor. Novak, 6-10, is only an inch shorter than Stoudemire but plays a completely different game. Novak produces his offense from the perimeter and led the league in three-point shooting percentage. “There won’t be as much isolation with those guys, but there will be more activity,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. “Novak hunting down shots, Fields cutting back door on the weak side when everybody is watching the ball. You’ve got to be alert. They’re still just as dangerous.” LeBron James is expected to continue defending Anthony, with Shane Battier also handling that assignment coming off the bench. Bosh figures to guard Tyson Chandler. Haslem said he likely will defend Fields or Novak — whoever starts at small forward.”
The Mavs hope homecourt advantage can shift the close games in their favor.
Jason Terry only had one thing to say which explained the importance of tonight’s contest: “I’ll say it one time. Game 3 is Game 7. Thank you very much.”
From Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas: “The Mavs will not make the drastic move of switching defensive stopper Shawn Marion’s assignment in an attempt to slow down Russell Westbrook. At least, not at the beginning of Game 3. “I’ve got the same assignment,” Marion said before Thursday morning’s shootaround. “It ain’t changed.” That means Marion will continue to defend three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, who has averaged 25.5 points but shot only 31.4 percent from the floor as the Thunder opened a 2-0 lead in the series. Delonte West has opened the first two games defending Westbrook. Coach Rick Carlisle left open the possibility of using Marion on Westbrook (28.5 points on 52.3 percent shooting) at points in the game. “Possibly, but look, you’re talking about taking your best defender and a guy that was a real candidate for Defensive Player of the Year off of a guy off of a guy that he’s doing a great job on to put him on another guy,” Carlisle said. “We can look at it at different times of the games, but let’s not forget how great Durant is. He’s in the MVP conversation. “They present a lot of problems, and we’re looking at solutions.”
James Park is a regular contributor to Sheridanhoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.