GAME 1 EASTERN CONFERENCE ROUND 1: Knicks @ Heat 3:30 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
New York: In the season finale, New York crushed the Bobcats despite the absence of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Baron Davis. The Knicks stayed the night in Charlotte on Thursday and traveled to Miami on Friday for an afternoon playoff practice. Chandler remained at the team hotel as he fights a sickness and is listed as questionable heading into the contest on Saturday. Anthony and Stoudemire told reporters they expect to see the big man in Game 1. The Knicks are feeling confident heading into the postseason as the team accomplished some significant achievements this year. Chandler registered the league’s best field goal percentage, Steve Novak is the NBA’s top 3-point shooter by percentage, and Anthony was just awarded the Player of the Month. Not to mention, the team posted an 18-6 record under interim head coach Mike Woodson.
Miami: The Heat ended the season with two losses but the playoff pairings were pretty much set and the squad focused on health as opposed to knocking off the Bulls for the No. 1 seed. Dwyane Wade missed three games due a dislocated left index finger, Chris Bosh was sidelined with a strained hamstring, and LeBron James sat out the final two games to rest for the postseason. The Big Three are expected to be back on the floor on Saturday afternoon after utilizing a Friday practice to prepare for Game 1. Miami could feature a fairly new starting lineup in the first round, placing Udonis Haslem with starters in a small-ball set. The move would give the Heat a defensive stopper, Joel Anthony and a hustle player, Ronny Turiaf off the bench.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks closed out the season on a positive note with a 104-84 win over the Bobcats in Charlotte on Thursday night.
Miami: In a 104-70 loss to the Wizards, Norris Cole was the Heat’s leading scorer without James, Wade, and Bosh in the lineup.
The Numbers Game
In three meetings this year between the two teams, the century mark was only reached once by the Miami Heat on February 23.
Match-up to Watch
Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Chris Bosh
When the Heat hit the floor, the spotlight seems to shine directly on James and Wade. It’s understandable as the two players are future Hall of Fame players but Bosh is the X-Factor heading into this Game 1 matchup. Bosh loves to float out to 17-feet where he can deliver his patent left-handed jumper, which is nearly unstoppable. He is an underrated big man off the bounce and he shoots 50.7 percent from the floor in Miami’s victories this season. Opposing defenses tend to collapse on James and Wade, opening up Bosh on the perimeter for damaging shots. Stoudemire played in his fourth game back from the bulging disk injury on Thursday and displayed some extremely athletic plays, including a poster dunk over Tyrus Thomas. New York is 4-1 since his return and will lean on his ability to match Bosh on both sides of the floor. Woodson may place Chandler on Bosh but Stoudemire’s productivity, activity on the glass, and defensive prowess will be essential for the Knicks to steal a road win.
What to Look For
With a 46-20 overall record and 3-0 mark against the Knicks this year, there is no doubt the Heat are a difficult first round challenge. However, under a microscope, Miami has holes and New York might be the perfect team to ruin the Heat’s championship aspirations. First of all, Miami is not scoring in the open floor over the last month, down to just 7.7 points in the month of April according to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann. If the Knicks can take away the Heat’s transition buckets, especially the momentum changing alley-oops, Miami becomes an easier team defend in the half court. Secondly, the Heat’s opponents shoot 36.3 percent behind the arc, which should allow the league’s best 3-point shooter, Steve Novak along with J.R. Smith to flourish from downtown. The third aspect to Saturday’s opener is the bench production. New York owns a deep and lethal second unit while Miami is thin on the pine.