Archive for the ‘New York Knicks’ Category

Much to the surprise of most, the Chicago Bulls won Game 1 on the road to start the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 1-0 lead over LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Among the adjustments the Heat must make for Game 2 are three top priorities: Tighten up their 4th quarter defense, play with a greater sense of urgency, and run the offense through LeBron James in late minutes when the game is close.

These three adjustments seem elementary at best, as a 5th grader could make these observations, but these issues seem to be a recurring theme for the Miami Heat in the postseason.

Just last season, the same lackadaisical tendency was shown during each of the first three Heat series. Against the Knicks in the first round, after the Heat rolled to a 3-0 lead, Miami went into cruise control and cruised to a Game 4 loss.

Against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics in rounds two and three, the Miami Heat started each series with 1-0 and 2-0 leads respectively, only to allow that seemingly “lazy” play to let Indiana and Boston to gain leads in those series.

It wasn’t until the Heat tightened up their defense late, played with a sense of urgency, and allowed LeBron to run the offense that the Heat regained control and ultimately won those series.

I thought that the Heat’s defense in the last two minutes was lacking in two respects. First, they needed a better effort shutting down the ball handler, Nate Robinson. From watching tape on the Brooklyn Nets series, Coach Spoelstra must have realized Robinson was going to be a threat if not contained. Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen, although excellent defenders in their own right, are not the best available options in that situation. LeBron James has proven to be a shut down defender time and time again and I expect given a similar situation late, will defend Robinson in isolation.

The second piece of that puzzle is a stronger presence in the paint. Chris Anderson has shown that he can provide that much needed rim defense in case the perimeter defense is broken. Robinson is deadly of the dribble and showed that he could get his shot in close, without much help from either Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem.

As far as playing with urgency, I doubt anything needs to be done here. Losing to the Bulls in game 28 of “the streak” had to have put a bad taste in the Heat’s mouth, of which Monday night’s Game 1 loss surely reminded them. Look for Miami to come out swinging in Game 2.

Lastly, the Miami Heat are at their offensive best when LeBron James has the ball. Not only does he command the attention of, likely, the Bulls’ best defender, but also that of the potential double team help from the wing, anyone assisting on the pick and roll, as well as the man defending the paint, should he need to come up to guard against James’ drive to the rim.

Fortunately for the Bulls in Game 1, this strategy for the Heat was stymied somewhat, as the shots weren’t falling on the James kick-outs for three (the Heat shot just 29% from behind the arch, down from their season avg. 39% and started 1-8 from three).

If the Heat can make the needed adjustments while finding their offense, it should mean getting back on track and possibly even an early end to the series. If not, it still could be an early end to the series…

It’s time once again for postseason greatness in the NBA.

Here are the Eastern Conference series:

(1) Miami Heat vs (8) Milwaukee Bucks

(2) New York Knicks vs (7) Boson Celtics

(3) Indiana Pacers vs (6) Atlanta Hawks

(4) Brooklyn Nets vs (5) Chicago Bulls

Break Downs and Predictions:

(1) Heat vs (8) Bucks:

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This series hardly requires any breaking down. Simply put, the Miami Heat are out of the Bucks’ league.

It’s possible that the Bucks may come within ten points of the Heat in one or two of the games, but even that is being optimistic.

Prediction – Miami wins series 4-0

(2) Knicks vs (7) Celtics:

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Much like the “2-vs-7” match-up in the West between the Spurs and Lakers, this series is very likely going to the final seventh game.

The New York Knicks have seen MVP level play from star Forward Carmelo Anthony and stellar support from J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler.

The Celtics have been coping with the loss of All-Star Point Guard Rajon Rondo to an ACL injury. Stepping up to fill the void has been Avery Bradley. Forward Jeff Green has provided much needed scoring and will likely be the “X-factor” in the Knicks series.

Because both teams have formidable scoring threats as well as defensive abilities, I would give the edge to the better head coach. Doc Rivers is one of, if not the best coach in the East.

Prediction – Boston wins series 4-3

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(3) Pacers vs (6) Hawks:

They should call this series the “under-the-radar” series.

Both the Indiana Pacers and Atalanta Hawks have done simply just enough over the course of the season to make the playoffs without turning many heads or making any waves.

This strategy worked well for the Pacers last season as they proved the first real test on the Heat’s road to their championship, nearly stealing the series while Dwyane Wade struggled and Chris Bosh recovered from injury.

The Hawks pose no such threat to the Pacers who, even without Danny Granger, should handle Atlanta without much issue.

Prediction – Indiana wins series 4-2

(4) Nets vs (5) Bulls:

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The Chicago Bulls surely thought they’d be going into the first round of the playoffs this season with a healthy Derrick Rose, who tore his ACL in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

That, however, is not their reality as Rose continues his rehab months after being cleared by team doctors to return to action.

The Brooklyn Nets pose a large challenge for the shorthanded Bulls with All-Star Center Brook Lopez and elite Point Guard Deron Williams enjoying home court advantage.

The biggest chance the Bulls stand at beating the Nets is by exploiting their physical play. The X-factors for Chicago will be Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson.

Prediction – Chicago wins series 4-3

That wraps up the Eastern Conference first round match-ups. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Miami Heat

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Well, it’s happening a lot sooner than I had anticipated.

The national media circuits are beginning to pay positive attention to the Miami Heat. Note: I said Miami Heat, not LeBron James.

ESPN created a monster in producing and airing “The Decision,” the hour-long special in which LeBron James revealed he would be leaving Cleveland after 6 years with no rings.

The weeks leading up to “The Decision” were filled with shameless advertising and hype. News segments were mere rumors and speculation. In one day, LeBron would start out leaning towards New York, by noon it was Chicago or New Jersey, and by the time the actual day came around, most everyone already knew LeBron was going to leave to go to Miami.

All signs pointed to him leaving!

And the Cleveland fans knew it because the media knew it (more or less). Therefore, you saw the Cavs fans making pleas, literally begging LeBron not to go.

All I’m saying is, James’ decision did not shock anyone.

What did shock me was how quickly the media turned its back on its involvement in the whole “Decision” debacle. Sports T.V. shows, sports talk radio hosts, and the overall sports community spent easily the entirety of the next week speaking of nothing besides the Miami Heat and specifically LeBron James.

They gaged the country’s opinion on “The Decision” and when they found it to be overwhelmingly negative, they washed their hands of LeBron, painted a picture of a villainous fiend, and tossed him under the bus.

The regular season talk was focused on different players throughout the year but one theme rang true loudly: The national media have withheld spotlight from James as an individual when it applies to praise for excellent play. Instead, they direct the praise to the Heat as a whole, or to Dwyane Wade.

This is not to say that LeBron is under the radar. The media are more than happy to talk about James’ shortcomings, missed opportunities, etc.

Now that the Heat have shown brightly the first round and beginning of the second round, the national media is catching on to something: This Miami Heat team is good. Very, very good.

In the sports news business, it’s all about being first to break news or being the first to predict the champion. When their horse goes down (i.e. Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, etc) often times, the analysts or radio hosts will simply pick a new team he/she claims to have known all along would win it all.

As a lonely passenger at times on the LeBron bandwagon, it has been, at times, hilarious to watch these analysts pretend other players deserve the MVP, blowing losses out of proportion, and force-feeding the masses inflated and irrelevant stats to dismiss LeBron’s dominance.

I figured it would take more time before the same people who threw James under the bus would crawl back and play nice.

LeBron said way back when this whole media frenzy started getting vicious that he was going to keep track of the nay sayers.

I hope he unleashes on someone to be honest. I hope he throws down on a reporter who ripped James’ integrity during “The Decision” hot bed. I hope he calls one of these smile-fakers out, quoting the outrageous attacks on his leadership qualities, finishing capabilities or work ethic.

There won’t be much left to say when Miami’s “Big 3” are raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

There were so many moves this season before the NBA trade deadline. All-Stars were moved (Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams) and draft picks changed hands like playing cards.

Some of these trades were expected. Carmelo Anthony, for instance, was the center of trade talks this past season due to ‘Melo’s contract expiring the end of the season and Anthony’s concern with leaving potential money on the table with the collective bargaining agreement.

Other trades, however, were blindsides. For instance, the Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets trade.

Now that the deadline is passed, there are clearly teams that did better than others when it came to improving through trades. I’ve come up with the 3 top teams as far as strengthening themselves.

#3 – New Jersey Nets

Ok, we all know that Deron Williams will leave the Nets after 2012, just like he would have left Utah. Of course there are exceptions to every situation, and if New Jersey can pull off a makeover of the century on the current Nets team and maybe pull in a huge free agent or two this summer, Williams could change his mind. I just don’t see it.

The reason I put them at #3 is the sheer improvement this makes in the Nets line-up. A facilitator like Deron Williams has been making very average players very productive with his play-making and passing abilities. Problem is, there won’t be a lot of players capable of finishing the assist for Williams. Lucky for the Nets, he can shoot too.

#2 – LA Clippers

The Clippers come in at #2 for making the most lopsided trade on the board. They successfully traded Baron Davis, who has lost all motivation in LA, and a first round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams. The Cavs must be trying to break their recently set record for consecutive losses.

#1 – New York Knicks

This one was easy. After LeBron James announced he would go to Miami the Summer of 2010, many people wondered whether or not the Knicks would be able to land a player good enough to make the Knicks competitive in the East. Although Carmelo Anthony is no King James, he was absolutely a key addition on the pathway back to not just relevancy, but dominance. This move makes the Knicks a very enticing place to play now for free agents. For the first time since the ’80’s and ’90’s, the Knicks are the hottest ticket in the Big Apple.

Reports surfaced last off-season that Carmelo Anthony wanted to play basketball in New York. Being from the east coast, Baltimore, MD, Carmelo would have no reservations playing back 2500 miles closer to home.

The off-season heard talk of ‘Melo going to the Lakers as well as the Knicks after the 2010-’11 season. Lakers talk only gained steam because of the closeness of Anthony’s and Kobe Bryant‘s relationship. The Knicks made plenty of off-season moves including picking up Amar’e Stoudemire and, like the Heat, had plenty of room left under the salary cap to sign another big name such as Carmelo Anthony.

Now that the trade deadline is nearing and ‘Melo’s contract expires at the end of this season, the Nuggets are open for trade offers. So far, there have been talks with New Jersey, New York and supposedly Los Angeles.

Reports have come out that Denver and New Jersey have been talking trades the last week. Although Anthony has come out publicly and stated he would like to play in New York for the Knicks, New Jersey has the most to offer Denver in a trade with draft picks.

The Knicks, I assume, are confident that ‘Melo will sign with them as a free agent this Summer if Denver doesn’t trade him away first, because they have not put out a trade offer – also, they declined an offer made by Denver where the Knicks would give Danilo Gallinari.