Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks have proven that they are a much improved team but can they be the team that can stop the Miami Heat from collecting their 14th straight victory?
Unfortunately, the Knicks year after year have been perennial lottery teams, which took a lot of the luster out of the old rivalry. And really, how can you top Jeff Van Gundy attached to Alonzo Mourning's leg?
Thankfully, the Knicks have shown much improvement the last couple of years. Though they weren't even close to threatening the Heat in last year's playoff series, they did secure their first playoff win in eleven years when they squeaked by 89-87 to stave off elimination and a series sweep. So, um, I guess that says something (baby steps, people). Regardless, the Heat rewarded their efforts by finishing them off one game later.
This season, they've added a few key players such as Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and recently Kenyon Martin to the team and if this had been 2004 they might have had a chance of being at the very top of the East standings but right now the Heat have been literally unstoppable and are 6.5 games ahead of the Knicks and Indiana Pacers.
Despite the considerable advantage on paper for the champs, the Knicks opened the season by cooling off the Heat in a 20-point blowout and then followed that up a month later by being only the third team in the league so far this season to beat the defending champs at home in Miami with another 20-point blowout, the worst result at the AAA in a game featuring the Heat's Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh playing.
The key to both Knicks victories were 19 three-pointers knocked (knicked?) down in the first game and then 18 more in the rematch at AmericanAirlines Arena. According to Elias, the Knicks were the first team in NBA history to hit 18+ shots beyond the arc in two straight games against the same opponent.
The Heat are a much different team now, with a renewed focus on the defensive end as well as a solid backup in the paint in Chris Andersen to counter the Knick's size. A return to form from LeBron James (practically a given in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden), continued excellence from Dwyane Wade and some timely outside shots from Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Ray Allen will give the champs an excellent chance to secure their 14th straight victory and another full game ahead in the standings away from their old rivals.
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