While it looks like the Miami Heat are running away with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, it is worth mentioning that in their two games against the New York Knicks this season, they lost twice by 20 points.
If February was about building a winning streak (currently at 13 games), than March is about getting even with teams that handed the Heat some crushing blows earlier this season. The Heat aren’t playing at home, where they have won most of the games on the current streak, but the road isn’t such a terrible place to visit in recent games, with everything clicking all too well, even when LeBron James doesn’t post incredible stat lines.
James finished with 18 points, 14 of them coming in the fourth quarter, in the recent win over the Memphis Grizzlies, which was a test in winning through a gritty kind of team after having it rather easy through the previous month, filled with double digit wins and a lot of photos showing us teams unable to chase Miami on the fast break. Dwyane Wade led the team with 22 points and his playing much better basketball since the turn of the year and is averaging 24.2 points over the last 10 games.
The New York Knicks are no longer as hot or dominant as they were earlier this season. Carmelo Anthony is a ball-hog again, and there are questions about how good Raymond Felton really is after coming back from his injury. Amare Stoudemire keeps coming off the bench and Tyson Chandler is having big rebounding nights, but despite winning three games in a row and having Iman Shumpert back, something is off with the Knicks, who lost four in a row prior to their current winning streak, two of the wins coming against inferior Eastern Conference team.
James is averaging 33.6 points in his last eight regular-season trips to Madison Square Garden, but he was held to 23 on Nov. 2 as the Knicks held Miami to its second-lowest total of the season in a 104-84 win. The team battling with the Knicks for the second spot in the East, the Indiana Pacers, managed to limit the Heat to something even lower.
Carmelo Anthony is back on top of the scoring charts with 28.6 points per game this season, averaging 28.9 over the last 10 games, and 30 points from his previous big game against the Heat to open the season. Still, it’s worth mentioning that Anthony’s average is higher during Knicks’ losses, and that he’s making only 38.2% of his field goal attempts over the last three games.
Prediction – Very simply. If the Heat’s defense continues to play like it has in recent weeks, the Knicks have no chance of using their three point barrage as well as they did in the first two games and when they’re at their best this season. Another thing worth watching is who guards Carmelo Anthony, who struggled when defended by James last postseason.