Commentary

Knicks playoffs: Excitement times 10

Top reasons to be pumped about series vs. Miami (yeah, like you need reasons)

Updated: April 27, 2012, 10:49 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

From Steve Novak's 3s to Tyson Chandler's D, we give you the top 10 reasons for New York Knicks fans to get fired up for the first-round showdown with the Miami Heat:

10. LeBron in MSG

LeBron James flirted with the Knicks during his 2010 free agency but ultimately spurned New York, choosing to join his buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Knicks fans were livid at the time -- and many still hold a grudge. No doubt, they would like nothing more than to send James home after the first round and into another offseason without a championship ring.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James and Carmelo Anthony
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are at the top of their games, but only one can win.

9. Streaky Smith

J.R. Smith has had some unconscious games at the Garden -- the night he hit seven 3s in the first half against the Celtics comes to mind. But he also has had moments that left Knicks fans -- and coach Mike Woodson -- shaking their heads. If he can produce more highlights than head-scratchers against Miami, it'll make the Knicks' offense that much more potent.

8. Can New York get a win?

The Knicks are making just their third playoff appearance in the past 10 years. New York hasn't won a playoff game since 2001, when Jeff Van Gundy (now an ESPN analyst) roamed the Garden sideline. Last year, New York was swept by Boston, leaving a bitter taste in the players' mouths. Can they wash it out versus Miami?

7. Woody's future

Woodson led the Knicks to an 18-6 record after taking over for Mike D'Antoni in mid-March. In doing so, the interim coach established a strong candidacy to take the job on a full-time basis next season. He can boost his case with a strong run in the postseason. To do that, Woodson will need to get the Knicks to play with the same defensive intensity they showed in the regular season.

6. What about Amare?

Amare Stoudemire finished a difficult regular season on a high note Thursday, scoring 21 points against Charlotte and throwing down a poster-worthy dunk over Tyrus Thomas. Can he bring that aggressive play into the postseason? The Knicks lacked a consistent secondary scorer while Stoudemire was out, and they hope he can fill that role in the playoffs.

5. Shumpert vs. Wade

Iman Shumpert electrified the crowd all season with his defensive prowess, getting clutch steals that often resulted in highlight-reel opportunities on the other end. But the rookie from Georgia Tech will have his hands full against Wade. He can't stop Wade, but can he slow him down? Either way, it'll be fun to watch.

4. Melo's hot hand

Carmelo Anthony single-handedly carried the Knicks late in the second half when Jeremy Lin and Stoudemire were sidelined by injuries. He scored 32.2 points per game (two 40-point games) and hit nearly half (47 percent) of his 3s over a nine-game stretch in April. The Knicks might need a repeat performance from Melo against Miami.

3. Chandler's D

For years, they've chanted "DE-FENSE" at the Garden. For the first time in a long time, the home team is responding. And it's thanks to Chandler, who defends the rim as well as any big man in the league and has turned the Knicks into a top-five defensive club. Can that continue in the playoffs?

2. Novak's shooting

Novak has become a folk hero at Madison Square Garden for his 3-point prowess. The home crowd goes crazy each times he touches the ball behind the arc. And for good reason: He has knocked down a league-high 47 percent of his 276 attempts. Discount Double Check, anyone?

1. Carmelo vs. LeBron

These two have been going toe to toe since high school. And there's no better stage than the playoffs for their next matchup. Anthony is playing some of the best basketball of his career at the right time for New York, which makes his head-to-head with LeBron even more intriguing. May the best man win.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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