New York Knicks First Round Preview: Rise Up

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After all the ups and downs of the roller coaster regular season for the New York Knicks, they finished with a respectable 36-30 regular season record. Unfortunately it was only good enough for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference and has set them up with a match-up with the Miami Heat in round one, where they find themselves substantial underdogs. Can the Knicks shock the world and send the league’s most hated team packing home early?

The answer is probably not. The safe money in this series is the Heat in 5 or 6. I think the Knicks take it to 6 games but will ultimately fall short 4-2. How can they prove me wrong?

The Knicks must split with Miami in the first two games to create some type of pressure on the Heat when game 3 arrives at Madison Square Garden. Miami has no home court advantage. Their stands will be filled with fair weather fans, Knicks fans and white shirts covering empty chairs while people are arriving late and leaving early. Madison Square Garden is going to be a madhouse. The Knicks are a different team at home and should be able to at least split in games 3 and 4. The longer this series goes, the more pressure is on the Dream Team who is led by a player who isn’t known for his exploits in pressure situations.

Now is Carmelo Anthony’s moment. He has been playing as well as, if not better than any player in the NBA the past month. He needs to match LeBron James shot for shot and go beyond him in the 4th quarter. Yet even that won’t be enough for the Knicks, as they will need their supporting cast led by Amare Stoudemire to have enough firepower to match Dwayne Wade and to a lesser extent Chris Bosh.

Beyond that, it is on Tyson Chandler to dominate the paint with Miami running out a Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony combination at center. Iman Shumpert to D up Dwyane Wade like he did Derrick Rose a few weeks back and the JR Smith/Steve Novak combination to outscore Miami’s questionable bench.

Miami brings a defensive intensity matched by few, if any teams in the league and the Knicks have major issues at point guard and finding consistent secondary scoring options to Anthony. Can Stoudemire give them 18-22 points a night? Can JR Smith find any type of consistency? Will Iman Shumpert hit his open threes? These are the questions that will determine if this series will be a long one or a laugher.

The rest of my first round picks -

Chicago over Philadelphia in 5 – The Sixers have been a disaster the second half of the season. Chicago has been the East’s best team from start to finish and will use Evan Turner’s foolish words about wanting them in round one as fuel. The Sixers don’t have a single reliable scorer who can get them points in a big spot. That isn’t going to cut it against Chicago’s D.

Indiana over Orlando in 6 – The Magic have been a circus all year. Some think they rally around Dwight Howard quitting on them and make a bit of a “Ewing Theory” run. They might steal a game or two here but that’s it.

Boston over Atlanta in 6 – This will be a tighter series than many expect. The Hawks are confident against Boston and have athleticism that will be tough for them to deal with but in the end, the old heads are a safe bet.

San Antonio over Utah in 6 – Utah is feisty and will be tough to beat in their building yet Greg Popovich’s unbelievable coaching job will continue into the second round. The Spurs are too good to lose in the first round in back to back years.

Oklahoma City over Dallas in 7 – Awesome first round series. The champs will put up a hell of a fight but they simply aren’t on Oklahoma City’s level.

Memphis over Los Angeles Clippers in 6 – I love Memphis as a NBA Finals darkhorse.

Los Angeles Lakers over Denver  in 5 – Andrew Bynum has developed into arguably one of the ten best players in the NBA this year and will be too much for Denver to handle inside. The Nuggets also lack a big time scorer to go shot for shot with Kobe.

Guest Contributor Justin Fritze, weighs in with his Eastern and Western Conference picks -

Bulls vs. Sixers -

This series is going to be fascinating to watch. Will Derrick Rose be able to find his groove or is he going to just muscle his way into the lane and hope he draws fouls? Like the year before when the Sixers gave the Heat trouble, I can see the pass-first Sixers taking two games at best (one on the road/one in Chicago’s shiny new arena), but the newly acquired Rip Hamilton finally coming through with 3 pointers to put away the Sixers with inside out passing off the double team.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if Derrick Rose turns it over, Iguodala gets to the line, and Boozer once and for all proves that he isn’t worth the contract he was given? Derrick Rose, despite the weight of the city crushing his soul, should get a pass if he doesn’t play lights out. This guy has had an injury to almost every part of his body throughout the year. Still taking Bulls in 6.

Knicks vs. Heat -

A few things will happen if the Heat don’t win this in 4. Knick fans will become psychotic, Lebron James will have that PTSD look in his eyes, and Dwyane Wade will become a man on fire.

But let us all have a little reflection on the roster of guards the Knicks have, because next year half of them will retire or look for big money. Mike Bibby, the oldest “33 year old” I’ve ever seen, sounded fun at the beginning of the year but looks genuinely tired, physically/spiritually/subconsciously. Baron Davis, who after tossing Blake Griffin a basketball through a moonroof was sent to basketball purgatory, rebounding to the Knicks and looking like a little fat Buddha with a bad back, to now possibly being the savior of the Knicks playoff hopes. Toney Douglas, who as soon as he enters the game causes Knick fans to pour out a double shot of Jager, and the always social media savvy JR Smith. JR Smith loves the ladies.

Let’s not forget the greatest 3 point shooter in the universe Steve “I Am Legend” Novak. I will be buying a Novak jersey regardless of what happens at any point after today. Ok Knick fans. Are you ready? Knicks in 7. KNICKS IN 7! Am I drunk still from the Rangers game 7 win? You bet your ass I am.

Pacers vs. Magic -

Fun series right? Nope. No Dwight Howard (who I loathe almost as much as Metta Call Of Duty), so now it’s going to be a 3 point festival on the Magic side of the ball. The Pacers are going to take this in 5, and I don’t even imagine it being close. Sure the Magic are going to try and change their philosophy of 3 ball/inside to Dwight, but Stan Van Gundy is already thinking of a new job. Why stress this thing when you know for a fact everything is getting blown up at the end of the year? Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert are going to dominate inside, and guys like Ryan Anderson and JJ Reddick are going to get desperate real early in game 4, chucking up 3’s a la Novakia (a Russian cousin of Steve Novak). Pacers in 5.

Celtics vs. Hawks -

The great battle of old soldiers against the constant underachievers. They should put a picture of Joe Johnson/JR Smith/Al Horford in the digital version of Merriam Webster’s new dictionary right next to the word. Great 2K12 team, not so much in reality. I really think the Celtics are going to put in a statement game at home, get that fire going early, and put the Hawks down 2-0 quick. This is going to go 6 though, as the Celtics can’t keep the pace up all the way through. Rondo is going to put up a triple double at some point in this series, and Ray Allen will rain 3’s from the high heavens. My only fear is Josh Smith and his scowl. Want something to chew on? Josh Smith has never made an all star game. Celtics in 6. Fear the eyes of Pavlovic.

Thunder vs. Mavericks 

Last night does not make anyone in Oklahoma City feel good. The Thunder looked lost, anxious, nervous, and generally off balance for most of the night as Dallas looked every bit the team that got them to the Finals last year. There were a few things swinging the wrong way. Durant couldn’t get an open look, the knife’s edge that is Russell Westbrook taking jumpers became the only steady thing the Thunder had going, and the enforcer of the Thunder (Kendrick Perkins) was getting worked over by the bigs of Dallas. So where does that leave the series? 7 games. No less. Dirk is going to shoot the lights out, Jason Terry is again crushing the souls of opposing fans with effortless 3 pointers, and the duo of Vince Carter and Jason Kidd has more playoff experience than the entire Thunder roster. Durant and his game winner will quickly be forgotten if they split games going into Dallas. Thunder in 7.

Spurs vs. Jazz 

While I am a big fan of the new look Jazz (without Williams/Boozer), I know that the Spurs want to get this series out of the way as fast as possible. Call it the will of the ancients, the old man strength syndrome or simply the wisdom of the ages, the Spurs and the Mavericks are going to simply out-scheme teams like the Thunder and the Jazz. The Spurs are healthier, younger (Joseph/Leonard), and somehow outpaced every single team in the West with the best coach in the NBA manning the helm like an old fishing boat captain. Spurs in 5

Clippers vs. Grizzlies

The Clippers have everything they need to counter the inside out game of the Grizzlies. Chris Paul has proven this entire season that he is the best closing point guard in the game, but I (along with the rest of casual observers) do not trust Vinny in crunch time. Despite an assistant coach masquerading as a head coach, I see the force of Nick Young/Mo Williams and Chris Paul doing too much to let the Grizzlies run away with it. Clippers in 6.

Lakers vs. Nuggets

Denver has one thing going for it. Age. Their guards are 21, 24, 24, 26, 27, 27 and the ancient Andre Miller at 36. They might actually outcoach the Lakers, but the coinflip that is Kobe Bryant’s mentality on whether to shoot/get others involved is going to be the outcome of this series. He knows the window is just about closed, so look for him to try and get this thing out of the way in 5 games. Lakers in 5. Nuggets will be back next year, and probably the year after that so don’t get too discouraged Denver.