NBA Playoff Preview
The Ticker takes an in-depth look at the NBA Playoff picture
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 18:04
Mavericks will miss Tyson Chandler who has made a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year this season. He was the one who stopped Miami Heat on the defensive end in the Finals last year and now that he’s gone the Dallas defense is wide open for the likes of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook.
Nowitzki’s stats weren’t down by that much this year. His points per game average was 21.6 which is slightly below his career average of 23. Dallas will be counting on him to repeat his playoff performances from last year when he averaged 27 points and cemented his legacy as one of the best players in NBA history. But if he can’t then the Dallas are looking at a quick exit. They are not as solid as they were last year and they won’t be able to keep up with the top teams in the West.
Knicks are finally in the playoffs after turbulent year
To describe this Knicks season as a roller-coaster ride would be an understatement of the highest order. For most fans of the Blue and Orange, this season has felt like multiple seasons in one with coaching changes, disgruntled stars and everything inbetween.
The Knicks started off by beating the Celtics on Christmas day before it all began to go downhill. During the month of January the Knicks went 6-11, including a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Carmelo Anthony was enjoying the worst season of his career. He posted career lows in scoring and field goal percentage hovering around 21 ppg and 41 percent from the field for most of the season. Amare Stoudemire was a shell of the player he was last year, when he posted a career high 25 PPG. Tyson Chandler was like a lone ranger out there playing with a bunch of uninspired teammates.
Then Linsanity happened. On the end of back-to-back-to-back games , the Knicks had a home game against their rival Nets. After losing the first two games in that stretch and with Anthony out and other players exhausted, coach Mike D’Antoni turned to second year guard Jeremy Lin. Lin proceeded to go on a remarkable run leading the Knicks to seven straight wins, and pulling their season out of the doldrums. This streak also included an iconic performance vs. the Lakers where Lin recorded a career high 38 points.
But eventually the stars returned, the schedule got tougher and another losing streak was on the horizon. This one would be fatal for D’Antoni who quit after losing the locker room. Enter Mike Woodson who was brought on as a defensive coordinator of sorts at the beginning of the season. The Knicks responded brilliantly.
With Lin and Stoudemire out for considerable stretches, Anthony carried the Knicks to the post season on the back of some of the most impressive performances of his career. His 43 point outburst over the Chicago Bulls on April 8 included a Jordan-esque game winner which had the Garden chanting his name. In the month of April he has been averaging 31 PPG and 7 RPG along with shooting a 50% from the field and an impressive 48 percent from three.
Under Woodson the Knicks have shown a defensive resurgence emerging with rookie Iman Shumpert quickly earning a reputation as a shut down defender. Since Woodson has taken charge the Knicks are 17-6 and as the 7th seed they will play the star studded Miami Heat in round one. The Knicks have a chance vs the Heat. Stoudemire is back, he will have to improve his poor defense and rebounding especially against Chris Bosh. The Knicks will need Carmelo to keep up his high scoring but they will also need their two x-factors off the bench, JR Smith and Steve Novak to keep defenses on edge with their impressive long range shooting. If Shumpert can somehow slow Dwayne Wade down and Melo can bother Lebron like he always had, we could be on for a 1999 like upset, one can only hope.
Garnett and Celtics are ready for a last push
Another year and yet another Atlantic Division title for the Boston Celtics, yet the same question inevitably arises, are they too old to make a serious run?
With their big three posting a combined age of 105, it has been no secret that Boston may be the most experienced team in the post season, and one of the oldest. However doubters would be hard pressed to believe that their age would hinder any potential playoff run as their 23-14 run since the all-star break proved that they still have something left in the tank.
Doc Rivers is still at the helm, the wily veteran coach has perhaps been better than ever this season, seamlessly mixing new players with his aging stars. However Rivers’ real stroke of genius has been his decision to move power forward Kevin Garnett to the center position. Garnett has seen his production tail off on the offensive end in the past couple of years due to old age and injuries. But he has found the fountain of youth at the center position. Instead of facing off against the more agile and athletic power forwards, Since the switch, Garnett has been averaging 17.1 ppg, and 8.9 rebounds a game, a far cry from his power forward averages of 14.3 ppg and 7.5 rebounds.