NEW YORK — The prospect of a high-profile Heat-Knicks first round playoff series seemed to get a little more likely with Miami’s 93-85 victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The Heat are firmly entrenched in second place in the Eastern Conference, three games in the loss column behind the Bulls and five games ahead of the Pacers. The Knicks are back in eighth place with the loss, but hold the tie-breaker over the seventh-place Sixers, who play six of their last seven games on the road.
So maybe we’ll get a matchup reminiscent of the one we saw in the last post-lockout postseason. Back in 1999, thanks to Allan Houston‘s tear drop, the eighth-seeded Knicks knocked off the top-seeded Heat on their way to The Finals.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and maybe Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together for 4-7 games, with at least two on the big stage of MSG? That would be a blast.
But despite the star-power, a Heat-Knicks series wouldn’t be pretty. In fact the scores might look a lot like those of that ’99 series (average score: 83-79). These are two top-five defensive teams who have struggled offensively of late. Each has a supporting cast that has been unable to step up when defenses have focused on the stars.
Anthony shined on Sunday, scoring 42 points on 27 shots. But he got very little support, with starters Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert and Landry Fields combining to shoot 4-for-18. The Heat weren’t exactly balanced, but they had three threats down the stretch instead of just one. And in combined points in the paint and at the line, they outscored the Knicks 61-48.
“We kind of lived on jump shots,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said afterward, “Offensively, we were so stagnant. When the game is on the line like that, you’ve got to get some movement, and we didn’t do that.”
Sunday’s game, specifically the lack of a third scorer beyond Anthony and J.R. Smith, raises one key question for the Knicks: Do they need Stoudemire back?
Stoudemire, out since March 24 with a bulging disk in his back, is obviously a guy who can hit a shot. But the Knicks just haven’t been very good with him in the lineup this season. It’s been 14 months since New York traded for Anthony and the team’s two stars still haven’t found a way to be doubly-effective when they’re on the floor together. And Anthony has been more potent offensively when he’s been playing the four.
As the Heat try to find the right pair of players to put around Bosh, James and Wade in crunch-time, their lineup questions are nearly as fascinating as New York’s.
No matter how low the scoring is though, there’s no question that a Miami-New York series would be endlessly entertaining.