By John Schmeelk
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LeBron? Rose? Wade? Thibodeau? Bosh? Boozer? Riley? Noah?
Who the Knicks should want to face in the first round of the NBA playoffs has fans all over the city embroiled in argument.
The easy answer would be to win out and have the Orlando Magic lose their last two, giving the Knicks the sixth seed and setting up a first-round series against the Indiana Pacers. It wouldn’t be an easy series by any means, but it’s certainly less daunting than having to take on the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat.
I’ll get the fan part of this out of the way first. If Knicks fans just listened to their emotions, they would be taking on the Heat in the opening round.
Would anything be sweeter than watching LeBron James walk off the court with his head down, after getting upset by not just a No. 7 seed, but one of the teams he spurned when he signed with the Heat? The answer is no. Then there’s the upset karma that goes along with playing Miami, going back to the first-round ousters of 1998 and 1999. Beating Pat Riley is always fun too. The electricity in the city and the Garden would be unmatched.
There’s plenty of history with the Bulls too, but the potential of beating Miami would be so much fun and is just so hard to resist.
In terms of actually winning the series, the answer is a lot tougher. The Bulls’ performance this year without Derrick Rose is without par, and should earn Tom Thibodeau Coach of the Year honors. They play such good fundamental basketball, especially on defense that they are likely going to clinch the number one seed in the Conference without their far and away best player.
Rose should be a go for the playoffs — but how healthy will he be? Will he be able to stay on the court in a season in which nearly a half-dozen different injuries sat him out at various points? Despite their record without Rose, can the Bulls win in the playoffs without their star? Will they have good chemistry and play well together if he does play? These are huge questions that still have to be answered.
Otherwise, the Bulls present a great challenge. Their rebounding would hurt the Knicks in nearly every game, with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson going against Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. The Bulls are the best offensive rebounding team in the basketball and the Knicks would have their work cut out for them on the glass. I also worry about whether New York can score on the Bulls if Anthony or Stoudemire don’t get hot. Otherwise, the Bulls don’t present many other matchup problems, and I like Iman Shumpert on Rose.
As for the Heat, the Knicks match up well against them. Shumpert is the perfect guy to watch Dwyane Wade. Anthony knows how to guard James, and Stoudemire won’t get bullied by a soft Chris Bosh. Both teams lack a decent point guard, and Chandler should dominate whoever the Heat decide to roll out as their center. The Heat have been playing poorly recently, with little energy on defense and less continuity on offense. The Heat bench and supporting cast is simply brutal.
Of course, on any given night either James or Wade can be unstoppable. Can the Knicks match those two guys over the course of a seven game series? Tough to say.
In terms of basketball, bring on the Bulls. The Rose situation just seems to make the opportunity for an upset that much more likely. The Heat are a tough task, but beating them would truly be like winning the NBA Finals.
Odds are the Knicks won’t get very far anyway, so why not have the most fun on the way? Bring on the Heat!
You can follow Schmeelk on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports @Schmeelk.
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