All is going well in New York City, where the Knicks are in the midst of a 13-game winning streak. They put the league on notice last Sunday, compiling 125 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a win that put the NBA’s other top contenders on notice.
Now that the Knicks clinched their first Atlantic Division title in over a decade, their sights are set on escaping the first round and winning their first championship in 30 years.
One problem: the Miami Heat.
Remember them? That team with the best basketball player on the planet-it’s possible there’s an extraterrestrial out there with incredible basketball talent, but if Michael Jordan can essentially single-handedly beat the Monstars, LeBron James should fend off his alien competition-and then another top-10 player with an All-Star big man thrown in for fun? Oh yeah, don’t forget about one of the best shooters to ever play.
The Knicks are good, but the Heat are better. It’s not just Miami’s 10 extra wins that prove its superiority. While New York averages a 4.4-point differential, Miami’s mark outscores its opponent by 7.9 points per game. Miami leads the NBA with 110.4 points per 100 possession and ranks eighth with a defensive efficiency rating of 100.4. New York rates third and 16th, respectively, in those categories, which highlights its sporadic defense.
For the Knicks to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2000, they will need Carmelo Anthony to continue to play the role of Superman. Then they need all the role players to knock down their 3-pointers. The Knicks take and make more long-range shots than any other team in the league, which exposes them to blazing hot streaks when their shooters are hitting and shivering cold spells when the deep shot fails.
J.R. Smith scored at least 20 points in eight of 10 games earlier in the season. He then averaged 11.4 points through the next eight contests. Their bench depends too much on his offense for him to fade away again.
So are they peaking at the right time or wasting their best stretch of basketball far too early? Fans and analysts alike are often guilty of committing the fallacy of assuming all teams carry over their level of play into the postseason. It makes more sense to judge the teams’ entire body of work.
But if you want to pick the hot team to go all the way, Miami has lost twice since the start of February, so there’s also that.
It’s possible Anthony stays on fire, the supporting cast continues to drain 3-pointers and the Knicks run the gamut to obtain their first championship since Walt Frazier was dealing on the court instead of spieling in the booth. But it’s also possible the Boston Celtics contain Anthony, Smith and Co. have an off week and New York is sent packing early again.