(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
While this series has been high in intrigue, it hasn’t been high on quality basketball. Yes, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are mesmerizing to watch especially in the open court. And don’t get me started on their transition offense that is so seamless and impossible to impede. But because of injuries to Jeremy Lin (injured awhile ago but his absence still makes me sad), Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks, already at a significant disadvantage, are playing against a superior team at less than 100 percent capacity. It’s sad because a playoff series between a healthy New York Knicks team and Miami would be ridiculously entertaining.
Instead, we’ll be treated to impressive showings from LeBron and Wade and Carmelo Anthony taking the reigns of the Knicks offense. Anthony is the only legitimate shot creator on the team currently and his ability to play the small ball four on occasion will be invaluable. Anthony will be expected to carry the team especially because Tyson Chandler (illness), the 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year, hasn’t recorded a block shot in 54 minutes of playoff action. I’m not expecting a Knicks victory tonight but stranger things have happened.
Final verdict. Heat by nine.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Had the ball bounced their way a couple of times, the Dallas Mavericks would be the team with the ability to effectively put the series away tonight and not the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead, they will be pressed into winning the next two consecutive games to keep pace with the Thunder. Funny how basketball works. The Thunder have won both games by an average margin of two points and that is while Kevin Durant has shot 15-for-44 from the field (34.1 percent). Durant hasn’t been able to get off too many clean looks primarily because of Shawn Marion, whose relentless defensive play makes it very hard for scorers to create a lot of breathing room.
Durant’s partner in crime, Russell Westbrook, has increased his scoring load without sacrificing volume for efficiency. He’s shooting 52.3 percent through two games. The Mavericks haven’t been able to prevent Westbrook from crashing to the rim (12 attempts at the rim in two games, according to Hoopdata) and maybe the Thunder are better off running their offense through Westbrook. In the end, I can’t see Dallas losing this game with the way they challenged the Thunder on the road. Other than Utah, Dallas had the worst road record among playoff teams. I don’t really believe in “must” win games for the most part but this one will definitely apply for Dallas.
Final verdict. Dallas by seven.