The New York Knicks have undoubtedly given New York fans both excitement and heartache in their up and down roller-coaster season.
From the early failures of their long losing streaks, to the rise of Linsanity and the rediscovered scoring rhythm of Carmelo Anthony, Knicks fans have been on the edge of their seats with their nails in their mouth all year. Fortunately, the Knicks have accomplished the task of finding a flow under their new coach Mike Woodson, just in time for the postseason.
With their new-found success in a tough, defensive system, the Knicks have set themselves up for a very unlikely postseason run. Under the tutelage of Woodson, and the efforts of defensive-minded players like Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert, it should not be a surprise to see the Knicks run very far into the playoffs this year, short of overcoming the large barrier that is the Miami Heat.
However, not unlike the Dallas Mavericks of last year, the Knicks have a small, but solid, chance of coming out successful in the inevitable, upcoming series. Like the 2011 Mavericks, the Knicks are a team that many league pundits doubt, however, they have a very similar make-up in their team roster to combat Miami. And, although it remains to be seen, if the Mavericks can accomplish the "impossible," why not the Knicks?
The success of the 2011 Mavericks lied in several different factors: the prolific scoring of Dirk Nowitzki, the defensive prowess of Chandler and Shawn Marion, the sharpshooting of Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson, the playmaking of Jason Kidd, and penetration of the paint by J.J. Barea. However, all of these factors are both matched and/or exceeded by the current New York roster. The current Miami squad remain virtually unchanged, so the success in matchups should prove to be key in this series.
Carmelo Anthony is undoubtedly a prolific scorer, perhaps more so than Nowitzki, and should provide the offensive firepower needed to overcome a strong Heat defense. If Amare Stoudemire could rediscover his offensive prowess, this Knicks team would be blessed twice over and could potentially rotate these two players to create 48 minutes of superstar firepower. With their ability to draw in double teams and stockpiled coverage, it would give many an opportunity to the second facet of their offensive assets: their sharpshooters.
Steve Novak and J.R. Smith have provided an unbelievable three-point shooting tandem this year. Despite Novak's inability to do much else, he's become so much of an outside threat that it has caused defenders to keep tight coverage on him, locking them up from running a double team elsewhere. Smith not only provides sharpshooting abilities, but also has the ability to create his own shot and slash to the hoop with unbelievable athleticism, keeping defenders tight on him as well.
With an arguably improved Chandler in tow, and the strong defense provided by Shumpert, and to a lesser degree, Landry Fields, the Knicks defense has become a major threat in the league. Sporting the fifth best defense in the league, only allowing 98.6 points per 100 possessions, the Knicks have come a long way from last year, where their defense was more comparable to a revolving door than an NBA level defense. This is, without doubt, due to the strength and efforts Chandler, a possible 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, who changed the culture and mindset of this Knicks team. If their defensive grittiness continues into these playoffs, we will see these Knicks fulfill the true spirit of a New York basketball team.
And finally comes the new-found liveliness in the grizzled veteran point guards: Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. In the last couple of weeks, these two have shown the know-how of a veteran bridled with a new excitement akin to their youthful playing days. Come the excitement of the playoffs, it's almost guaranteed Knicks fans will see a spark in these two. Ideally, Jeremy Lin would return to provide the interior penetration and playmaking this team would need, but the experience and capabilities of these two veterans are not to be dismissed, and will certainly light excitement in Knick fans.
Once the barrier of the Heat are passed, the rest of the Eastern Conference should be a slight bit of an easier task.
Short of any unforeseen injuries, the 2012 Knicks just may be going down the lane of the 1999 Knicks -- hopefully with a different, more positive, end result.
Be prepared for some excitement, Knick fans.