ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling joined Knickerblogger's Jim Cavan and ESPN.com Heat Index's Tom Haberstroh, Michael Wallace and Brian Windhorst to give their takes on the biggest storylines heading into Game 3 of Knicks-Heat.
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Here are Zwerling's thoughts:
1. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks are better off without Amare this series.
Zwerling: Fiction. The bottom line is: Going up against the Heat's Big Three, the Knicks need to counter that with scoring, and Amare Stoudemire can provide 15 to 20 points per game. What's plagued him from getting going is two things: one, sharing the court with Carmelo Anthony; and two, not having a solid and healthy point guard to make plays for him off the pick-and-roll. Baron Davis and Mike Bibby are not cutting it. While Stoudemire is out for Game 3 and likely Game 4, when he does return, Mike Woodson should consider playing STAT more with the second unit, and have J.R. Smith, who's been a pleasant surprise running some point, setting the power forward up.
2. Fact or Fiction: You expect loud boos for Amare at MSG.
Zwerling: Fiction. Isolated boos, yes, but I don't expect them to be loud at all. Stoudemire has clarified what happened, saying he didn't mean to hit any fire extinguisher, and he's apologized to the fans and to his own teammates, and the Knicks are ready to move on. Amare will be vocal and energetic on the bench, matching his on-the-court style. Knicks fans should be excited about this game and not let any displeasure get in the way. Their focus should be on their team winning and not going down 0-3, which no team has ever come back from -- not on the past. What's done is done.
3. Fact or Fiction: If Bosh is out, Knicks should be favored with home court.
Zwerling: Fiction. Even if Chris Bosh doesn't play, the Heat will still be favored because of two main reasons: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are one, healthy, and two, playing very well in the series so far. Bosh obviously adds another dimension down low, but the Knicks' biggest worries are James and Wade attacking and Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and James Jones spotting up from downtown. The Knicks' perimeter rotations were off in Game 2. With Bosh in the lineup, the Heat have another player, in addition to Udonis Haslem, who can hit the 10- to 15-foot jumpshot and score inside.
4. Fact or Fiction: Game 3 is when the series really starts.
Zwerling: Fiction. Even if the Knicks steal Game 3, the Heat's Big Two and the Heat's coaching staff, led by Pat Riley disciple Erik Spoelstra, are just too good to lose two in a row to a banged up Knicks team that relies heavily on Melo. Not only do the Heat make great in-game adjustments, but also game-to-game adjustments. They know how to maintain their identity, while tailoring to the specific schemes that their opponent run. When the Heat lose, they beat themselves, and that can happen in a hostile environment like the Garden. The Knicks tend to not change too much, and that's Woodson's style. Creativity is not his forte; traditional basketball is.
5. Fact or Fiction: Miami has been more impressive than New York has been disappointing.
Zwerling: Fiction. The Knicks have been disappointing by virtue of how they've played and what's happened with the team. The Heat, don't get me wrong, have been impressive, but the Knicks picked the worst time for injuries, from Iman Shumpert to Stoudemire to Tyson Chandler, who wasn't 100 percent in Games 1 and 2. He said he's feeling much better today. With Chandler and Shumpert unable to anchor the Knicks' defense, from the perimeter to the interior, that opened up holes for the Heat to expose even more. The Heat will continue to play well in Game 3, so the Knicks need to play their best game of the year to win Thursday night.
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