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By Thomas Johnson
It would have been nearly impossible for a full-strength Knicks team to topple the Heat. With almost half its roster missing, New York never really stood a chance.
At least it was entertaining. That’s one constant you can usually count on when these two teams and fan bases meet.
Once it became clear that Dwight Howard wouldn’t be participating in the postseason and Derrick Rose tore his ACL, Miami-New York was always going to be the most entertaining Eastern Conference first round series almost by default, regardless of the actual quality of the games.
And outside of Game 4, it really wasn’t all that captivating. But it’s a star-driven league and whenever you have LeBron, Dwyane and Carmelo sharing the court (and to a lesser extent Bosh, Amar’e and Chandler), people are going to tune in.
It also helps that the two fan bases detest one another. Part of the reason is of course the late-90s Heat-Knick battles as well as the cross-sports history (Dolphins-Jets), but the biggest factor is the large contingent of New Yorkers living in Miami. You only have to tune in to a mid-afternoon sports radio show and hear a few New York callers to understand why.
Miamians can’t stand vocal New Yorkers for the same reason the ‘Jersey Shore’ made Italians weary of Italian-Americans.
So when the Knicks come to town (especially in the regular season), you almost always get a 70-30 split in the crowd and that 30-percent make sure they’re heard. It tends to add a bit more electricity to the building, which can result in games like the Wade/James 10-dunk highlight stuffer a few months back.
However, this time around, there really weren’t as many highlights, save for a couple monstrous blocks on Carmelo Anthony.
After Amar’e did his best, “don’t hit me, I’ll hit me” rendition, which featured a very surprised fire extinguisher, the intrigue almost entirely shifted to Anthony and James. It was the first time the two have met in the playoffs and we can only hope it won’t be the last.
The Heat smothered Anthony in the first three games, completely taking him out of his rhythm offensively and when that happens, you suddenly remember that Carmelo does not affect the game in other ways.
To his credit, Anthony did eventually get it together and turned in a Game 4 performance ever-so-slightly reminiscent of the 46-point elimination special Wade hung on the Celtics a couple years back. If you consider yourself a superstar, which Anthony does, you should be able to at least win one game on your own regardless of the opponent or circumstances. And he did.
Although Anthony finished with as many total points (139) as James, it never felt as though they were impacting the game to the same degree. This series provided a good example for why the average fans tends to overvalue scoring as a measurement of talent. Sure, Anthony got his points, but he still isn’t able to impact a game defensively or get his teammates open looks the way James does.
It’s almost akin (but not really) to comparing Kanye West to someone like T.I. Sure, both can rap but if you’re comparing them as musicians, Kanye’s production skills don’t even make it a fair argument. Kanye just brings far more to the table.
Going forward, it’s hard to imagine Indiana getting more than air miles from the Heat. They might field a deeper, more complete team than the Knicks could, but they still won’t have the best two (possibly three) players on the floor. Roy Hibbert might (technically) be an All-Star center and a legit 7-foot-2, but if he can’t dominate a Howard-less Magic, then Miami really shouldn’t be losing sleep over him.
Nevertheless, there’s a chance the Heat will again coast in second or third gear for stretches, so it is entirely possible that the Pacers could take a game or two off them. (Prediction: Heat in 5)
All right, you were promised Top Plays, so without any more delay, here they are.
Agree? Vehemently Disagree? Any unforgivable snubs? Let us know, below. ‘Till next time.
By Thomas Johnson (Twitter: tjohnsonwriter)