Saturday, April 28, 2012
5-on-5 preview: Knicks-Heat, Game 1
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 1 of Knicks-Heat.
1. Fact or Fiction: In crunch-time, you'd prefer Carmelo over LeBron.
Zwerling: Fact. Among players who have taken at least 20 field goal attempts in game-tying or game-winning situations in the last 15 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime in the past 10 years, Carmelo Anthony ranks first in field goal percentage (46.2; 24-for-52), according to the Elias. His 24 field goals are second only to Kobe Bryant (26), but he's shooting only 30.2 percent in clutch situations (26-for-86). Melo's also shooting 46.7 percent on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of regulation or overtime -- the second-best mark in the last 16 seasons after the Mavericks' Shawn Marion (47.4 percent). As for LeBron James? Not even close to the top of the list.
2. Fact or Fiction: Chandler is the most important player in this series.
Zwerling: Fiction. That would be James. After disappearing in the NBA Finals last year, succumbing to rookie mistakes by fumbling the ball, making poor passes and looking rattled on his drives far too often, the likely MVP has a lot to prove heading into this postseason. And it starts with the first round. He's the most important player in this series because he's the best overall offensive and defensive player. If he can play efficiently as the point-forward and especially out of the post, where he's been excelling more this season, as well as make it difficult for Anthony -- easier said than done, of course -- the Heat will have the clear advantage.
3. Fact or Fiction: The Knicks should start Amare Stoudemire.
Zwerling: Fact. Well, first of all, if Tyson Chandler misses Game 1 with the flu, Stoudemire will likely have to start no matter what. But overall, STAT should be in the starting five. The first reason has to do with defensive matchups. With the Heat's Big Three, the Knicks wouldn't want to start Anthony at the four because that would mean Landry Fields would be on James. And that's a major mismatch. While STAT's not a consistently effective defender, he can make some stops against Chris Bosh with his length and athleticism. Offensively, while Anthony and Stoudemire still don't play great together -- that's because Melo is much more heavy in isolation -- Stoudemire's midrange jumper should come in handy from Anthony's penetration. And Stoudemire is getting that pop back since his back injury.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Heat should be concerned about rust.
Zwerling: Fiction. Maybe a bit in the first quarter of Game 1, but a few days won't derail the Heat throughout the course of a playoff environment. They will be fired up, especially playing at home to open the series. Now, heading into the playoffs, James is healthy, Bosh and Dwyane Wade's trainer, Ed Downs, said they'll both be ready to go. Wade dislocated his left index finger earlier in the week and Bosh had been dealing with a left hamstring strain. By the way, let's not forget something here: The Knicks will have some rust, too.
5. Fact or Fiction: The Heat will win in six.
Zwerling: Fact. The Knicks will make things interesting by stealing one game on the road and winning one at home through a combination of their defense, Anthony's scoring exploits and J.R. Smith and Steve Novak's 3-point shooting. During the regular season, the Heat were one of the worst teams at defending threes because they try to utilize their perimeter athleticism to over-trap and over-play passing lanes, leaving guys like Smith and Novak wide open. But in the end, the Heat have too much firepower that will overwhelm the Knicks down the stretch (just like what happened on April 15) -- no matter how clutch Melo is.