On paper, my prediction that the New York Knicks would compete with the Miami Heat in this playoff series looks pretty bad after LeBron James and company dropped them in a 100-67 blowout in Game 1. But let’s slow down for just a minute. Saturday’s game in Miami was the perfect storm and literally everything that could have gone wrong for the Knicks did: Tyson Chandler was sick and looked like it, getting four fouls in the first half and playing sluggish on the defensive end; Carmelo Anthony couldn’t shoot to save his life (3-for-15); Miami’s defense disrupted the Knicks’ offensive rhythm; the referees completely disrupted the flow of the game with multiple, unnecessary technical fouls and questionable calls; Iman Shumpert went down with a knee injury; Amare Stoudemire disappeared again; Miami’s supporting cast outplayed New York’s; and LeBron James absolutely put on a clinic to close out the first half after a ridiculous “flagrant foul” on Chandler. So yeah, if you include all that in one game, you get a complete blowout.
I’m not making excuses for the Knicks, because Miami was clearly the better team today. But I will say it’s a mistake to count this New York team out after one appalling performance. While this game certainly sent a message to Melo, Amare and the rest of the Knicks, it’s only one game. The Knicks are deadly in Madison Square Garden and if Melo can pick his game back up to the level he’s been playing at all month, New York still has a chance in this series. LeBron James’ brilliant performance should be a little disconcerting for Knicks fans, but we haven’t seen what he’ll look like in the fourth quarter of a close game yet. And I’m still hoping that we’ll see one epic, back-and-forth scoring LeBron-Melo battle before the series is over. In any case, you can expect LeBron to keep playing well and Melo to pick his game up.
There are a few serious areas of concern that might not change as easily, however. Even though I don’t see it happening, If Miami’s supporting cast plays well again, the Knicks are in real trouble. The Heat will continue to play good defense, but Melo and the Knicks can still score and should compete better with a healthy Tyson Chandler and a fresh start in Game 2. What’s really critical is the severity of Iman Shumpert’s injury. Losing Shumpert could prove to be a big blow if he’s out for an extended period of time, as he’s one of the best defender’s in the league. With so many prolific scorers on the Heat, New York might lose the one defensive anchor that could help them contend in this series. After that awful performance, the Knicks need more out of pretty much everybody. But J.R. Smith and Steve Novak absolutely HAVE to bang in some 3-pointers for this team to have a chance. Amare MUST show up and take more than seven shots. And New York really needs to exploit Miami’s disadvantage in their lack of depth, which is the exact opposite of what they did today, letting guys like Shane Battier and Mike Miller to make an impact.
The odds are definitely not in New York’s favor for pulling off the historic upset. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh didn’t do much and the Heat still absolutely smashed the Knicks. LeBron James stated his case for the MVP Award one more time and looked unstoppable as Miami sent New York a clear message: We’re better than you and you have no chance in this series. But I have to think that the competitor in Carmelo Anthony is absolutely ready to have a big game in Game 2, or at the very least, will show up to play for Games 3 and 4 at home. Either way, Melo has been playing too well recently to completely flush it all down the toilet. I still stand by my prediction that the Heat will win in 6 games, but don’t count New York out just yet; they were labeled as one of the most dangerous teams in the East coming into the playoffs for a reason.