I didn't get to watch last night's game, but as you may have heard, the Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats, Amar'e Stoudemire pooped on Tyrus Thomas, and the Knicks clinched the seventh and will officially play the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
For some people, that last bit might be frightening - no one likes poop on other people. Oh, and the part about the Knicks playing the Miami Heat, that's frightening too. Naturally, the Miami Heat are a team that conjures up feelings of anger and rage because of the old rivalries in the 90s. However, these two teams are also linked because of the way they were built. Recall that the Knicks were the first team to go all-in for the free agency class of 2010, hoping to sign Lebron James AND a second superstar. Recall that that James spurned the Knicks (after years of flirting with one another) and went to the Miami Heat who conjoined THREE superstars.
The Knicks tried to modeled their team after the Heat, by signing Amar'e Stoudemire, trading for Carmelo Anthony at all costs, and after striking out on Chris Paul (who, remember, first brought up the idea of a New York Big 3), signed Tyson Chandler to round out a Big 3 in their frontcourt.
The Knicks-Heat games always seem to matter a little more than other games, even if they don't end up being all that close. If you're an NBA fan, you're thrilled with this first-round matchup. If you're a Knicks fan, you're likely some combination of shaking-in-your-boots, curled-up-in-a-corner, scared, and fire-raging-in-your-stomach, foaming-at-the-mouth excited.
So, let's meet the Knicks' first round opponents, the Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat, for the second year in a row, finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference with a record of 46-20. If this had been a normal, full-length, 82-game season, the Heat's winning percentage of .697 would have translated into 57 wins, actually one worse than the year before! However, you can't factor in certain circumstances like injuries and schedules, and the like, so that's just a number.
As you probably know, the Heat swept the Knicks in their three regular season matchups, and they won by an average of 11.7 points. This is definitely a cause for concern, and one of the main reasons why many fans wanted the Knicks to meet the Bulls in the first round. But there's no use crying over spilled milk, broken silverware, or Josh Harrellson farts, so here are some numbers I find important, according to Hoopdata:
The Heat are the fourth most defensively efficient team in the NBA, one better than the Knicks. They're fourth in opponents' points per game with 92.3. The Heat are not a big team, with their primary big men being Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf, and Joel Anthony, so while they average 5.4 blocks per game (11th in the NBA), they are actually pretty lenient in the paint, allowing 39% shooting from 3-9 feet, only 22nd in the NBA. However, they are actually one of the best defensive teams at the rim, only allowing 57% shooting, which is second best in the league. I was surprised to see that the Heat are actually one of the worst teams at defending the three-point line, by allowing 36% shooting, good for 24th in the league, one spot worse than the Knicks.
The Heat are the fifth most efficient offense in the league, which means they'd score 104.7 points per 100 possessions. In actuality, they average 93 possessions in a game and score about 99 points per game - clearly efficient numbers. Obviously, the big sources of their scoring comes from the Big 3, James, Wade, and Bosh, who combine to average 67.2 ppg. After that, their other options are lacking, though. Mario Chalmers is the fourth best scorer at 9.8 ppg, and their fifth best scorer is Norris Cole at 6.8 ppg. But the Heat shouldn't be over-looked because of their see-saw scoring averages. They're ninth in the league in 3-point shooting (36%) and are efficient with their shot locations. They take almost all of their shots at the rim, from three-point range, or midrange (10-15 feet), as opposed to in the paint (3-9 feet) or deep twos (16-23 feet).
There's a statistical look at the Miami Heat. The Knicks oddly are pretty similar in many aspects, except for their offensive efficiency. But numbers only go so far. Last time these two teams met in the playoffs, well... suck it, Miami!