J.R. Smith has made some big shots for the New York Knicks this year and he’ll have to make more for the Knicks to have a big postseason. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com
Going into the season, the expectations for the New York Knicks were subdued to say the least. Sure, they’d make the playoffs, but after their uninspired performance against the Miami Heat in last year’s postseason, very few thought they’d be headed for more than a first-round exit. Then, the season started and that perception changed pretty quickly.
The Knicks began the year as one of the hottest teams in the league. They drained 3s every night, Jason Kidd had revived his career as a shooting guard and Carmelo Anthony had become the most dangerous scorer in the league. Suddenly, everyone had to take the Knicks seriously as a team who could do some serious damage in the playoffs.
In the past few months, however, the Knicks’ play has grown somewhat stagnant. Kidd’s hot streak came to crashing halt and Raymond Felton hasn’t looked the same since returned to the lineup from an injury to his right pinkie finger. J.R. Smith has his moments, but he’s as inconsistent as ever and his shooting percentage has hovered around 40 percent. The Knicks have managed to cling to the second seed (although the Indiana Pacers are right behind them), but they look a lot different from the scary-good team we saw in the first two months of the season.
So, how will things work out for the Knicks? Do they have enough to seriously challenge the Heat this season? Well, it’s certainly not impossible. They’ve beaten them two out of three times this season and even in their 99-93 loss to Heat on Sunday March 3, the action was close from start to finish and either team could have won. Plus, the team just seems to match up well against the Heat. They can match them in the 3-point shooting department, and while Anthony isn’t as well-rounded as LeBron James, he can match him shot-for-shot in the scoring department. If a game came down to a duel between Anthony and James, you’d take LeBron, but you wouldn’t count Melo out either.
Keeping all that in mind, it does seem possible that the Knicks could win four out of seven games against a team like the Heat. But “possible” is one thing, “likely” is a different story. For the Knicks to win the Eastern Conference, everything would have to go right. Anthony couldn’t have games where he becomes too selfish and hogs each possession and Smith would have to avoid shooting the Knicks out of any games, too. As anyone who watches Smith can tell you, it can be brutal to watch him when his shots aren’t falling. Efficiency from the Knicks’ two biggest scorers would be extremely important.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of other variables that could effect the team, too. The normally efficient Tyson Chandler was completely ineffective against the Heat in last year’s series, while 3-point specialist Steve Novak was unable to contribute much of anything either. For the Knicks to hang with the best, Chandler would need to throw down alley-oops while Novak swished wide open 3s. The two players are too important to what the Knicks do for them to beat an elite opponent without each of them contributing significantly.
Finally, there’s the Amar’e Stoudemire factor. There hasn’t been much to complain about with him this season; he’s responded very well to coming off the bench and is one of the best sixth men in the league. If he can keep up playing at this level, that could be the element that propels the Knicks into the finals. If he falters, it could submarine the entire team.
The Knicks are talented, but fragile. They have the capability to make a run, but only if every last variable ends up going their way. It won’t easy and they certainly wouldn’t be favored against the Heat, but the Knicks are just good enough that they can’t totally be ruled out. There’s a lot of things that could go wrong, but there’s a slim chance that all of those things could go right. If they do, the rest of the league better watch out.