Three weeks ago, The New York Knicks could not have looked like less of a playoff team. They had just suffered a bad defeat at the hands of the lowly Detroit Pistons. No one on the roster was playing defense, their effort was lethargic, players were starting to lash out at coaching decisions in the press, and then starting point guard Raymond Felton was arrested on gun charges. The Knicks were back to being a league punch line in record time. Then, they received a gift from the NBA: a soft point in their schedule. Seven of their next eight games came against teams with records of .500 or below. The Knicks were given a new life.
They went on an eight game winning streak. They were beating mediocre teams, save one home victory against the Eastern Conference leading Indiana Pacers, but they were winning. Then came their game on Sunday, March 24 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks were playing at home against another mediocre team, Cleveland came into the game with a record of 26-44 and it looked to be a winnable game. It was the type of game that a playoff team wins. But on Sunday, the Knicks proved they were not a playoff team.
Backup point guard Jarrett Jack went for a season high of 31 points as the visiting Cavaliers downed the Knicks, 106-100. The Knicks blew a 17 point first-half lead, and despite finishing with a game high 32 points, Carmelo Anthony missed all five shots that he took in the fourth quarter. Add to that the fact that the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks had lost that afternoon and the Knicks had a chance to cut their lead down to two games, making this game a must-win. Instead, the Knicks remained three out of the playoffs with just 12 games left.
As usual, the media went to Anthony for his post-game comments.
“It’s tough. We should’ve won this game. We gave it away. They earned it, they beat us. We didn’t play well coming down the stretch or in the second half and they did,” he said.
The superstar couldn’t have been more right. The New York Knicks are not a playoff team. They may get lucky and sneak in past the Hawks as the eighth seed, but they won’t deserve it. The truth is that most of the Eastern Conference is not made of playoff teams. That is why the Miami Heat will return to the NBA finals and possibly win it for the third year in a row.
Lebron James guaranteed a dynasty when he came to Miami in the summer of 2010. On the day of his welcome party to the Heat in July, he tweeted, “The road to history starts now.” So far, he has not disappointed. Along with teammates and friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he’s won two championships in his three seasons, and personally, he’s won back-to-back regular season MVPs. The Indiana Pacers pushed the Heat to the limit last season, with Miami needing seven games to defeat them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The biggest threat to their title defense is the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are young and full of talented players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant is arguably the front-runner for the MVP, if not James, and Westbrook is one of the best point guards in the league. The Heat do not have anyone who can counter him defensively. Still, when it is needed, the Heat are reminiscent of the Shaq and Kobe Lakers’ teams, in that they always dig in and play their best basketball when their backs are against the wall. That is why they will win it all again this year.