In a season that’s displayed both the finest NBA moments and the worst, you only have to look no further than the East to see varying results of what good basketball doesn’t look like.
Despite last year’s NBA champions currently the number one seed, the East is still the laughingstock of the league. However, while the West continues its winning streaks during the final battle for playoff positioning, the Eastern Conference’s possible first round matchup could make us forget how terrible the past six months have been.
With only six games remaining in their regular-season, the New York Knicks are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Momentum in this game can be one of the most dangerous weapons a team can possess and right now it’s the Knicks who have what it takes to turn the East playoffs from a laughingstock into must-watch basketball.
The ongoing rivalry between the Knicks and Miami has been going on for almost two decades and while the Heat have played it cool since grabbing the top seed this week, the buzz amongst many fans is the potential for another Heat vs Knicks series has suddenly resurrected thanks in part to the recent improvement of New York’s Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and J.R Smith. Not since the 2012 playoffs have these two teams battled it out in the remaining eight, and with the recent surge in tickets sales for New York’s remaining games, fans will definitely be thrilled with a possible matchup against the current champions. More importantly for the East Coast, this could just be the series that helps erase the past six months of weak East Conference competitiveness.
Now I’m not writing off the Atlanta Hawks; they are very much in this chase for the 8th spot, but on the worldwide scale of entertainment for viewers and well, general interest, the Knicks command us to watch. In other words, we don’t want to watch them. It’s all right there in lights! All-Star Carmelo Anthony, former Heat’s own Tim Hardaway Sr watching his son in opposing colors. Phil Jackson across the court from former Knicks head coach Pat Riley? This stuff just writes itself!
How just a few short weeks in basketball can change huh? Only last week we were talking about the Heat meeting the Washington Wizards for the first round and now this. Still, since I’m choosing to continue with my Heat-Knicks fantasy matchup, join me for nostalgia’s sake as we cast our mind back to the 2012 series.
Game 1 was in Miami and it looked like LeBron James was taking no prisoners. With 32 points in 32 minutes, he made the world believe he was on his way to his first ring.
Here, the Heat were up 3-0 wins, a whitewash was predicted and it looked like Wade would sink the game winner until he didn’t. Oh, and Carmelo sunk 41 points.
Yes I know I may be getting ahead of myself with envisions of a dreamy playoff series. Obviously, it’s dependant on Miami retaining their place at number one except now, things are different. They didn’t want it in October, November, or December. January and February passed, they didn’t want it then either. We suffered through the madness of March, the panic passed and soon we were flipping the calendar to April. Then it happened. The Heat finally secured the elite seed when it was the right time; when they were ready.
Now with seven games remaining the Heat are met with a variety of competition. Tomorrow it’s the mediocre Minnesota Timberwolves, then Sunday fans will get a glimpse of what a possible 2014 Heat – Knicks series will look like, followed by a back to back against the Brooklyn Nets then Memphis Grizzlies. The last Friday of the regular season showcases another hype game – the Pacers are back in Miami in what could be another possible seed decider. Their last back-to-back will be against the Atlanta Hawks who will still be battling with New York for a playoff spot and then the Heat finish with the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia Sixers.
Now while we wait, anticipating the likes of another potential chapter in the Heat-Knicks rivalry, the Chicago Bulls and the Nets look the most certain to be Miami’s next hurdle. And while heading into the season it looked as though the East would fail in comparison to the stronger Western Conference, it could just be that the East are only now about to make up for it with their brand of postseason entertainment.