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Miami and New York: By the Numbers

US Presswire

Myles Ma is here at Hickory-High every Thursday with the NBA Stock Report. Draw a circle around him on Google +, or follow Myles on Twitter, @LameMyles.

This post is part of our playoff preview series here at Hickory-High, complete with both statistical and video breakdowns. Check out the rest of the previews here.

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Key Number:

Heat - 3PT% - The Heat were one of the better three-point shooting teams in the league this season, tying the Rockets for ninth place at a rate of 35.9%. They don’t take that many. Their 1,030 attempts this season places them in the bottom third of the league. However, the Heat need to hit from deep to keep defenses from loading up on LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, who do the most damage when they are heading toward the basket. The Heat struggled to make threes against the Knicks in their three games this season, however, hitting just 24.4% on 13.7 attempts per game. No matter what any Knicks fan tells you, the Heat are favored to win this series. The series will stay competitive if the Knicks can focus on the penetration of Wade and LeBron without getting punished from the outside.

Knicks - FTA/FGA - Both these teams can play defense. The Heat were fourth in defensive efficiency; the Knicks were fifth. While their defenses are similar in quality, when matched up, the Heat had a much easier time running their offense than the Knicks, who saw almost a 10-point dropoff in their offensive rating when these teams played. The Heat were particularly stout under the basket, limiting the Knicks to 52% shooting at the rim, well below their 61% average. The Heat defended without fouling, sending the Knicks to the line less than 20 times per game. The Knicks were middling on offense this season, but one of their strengths was getting to the line. They have to find a way to get into the teeth of the Heat defense, draw contact and make their free throws if they’re going to have a chance.

Players to Watch:

Heat - Dwyane Wade - He was overshadowed a bit in the midst of LeBron James’ outstanding season, but Dwyane Wade is an equal part of the Heat offense. LeBron, Wade and Mario Chalmers form one of the most imposing defensive perimeters in the league, all three placing in the top 10 in STL%. Wade is also the team’s best shot blocker, remarkable for a shooting guard. It’s likely the Knicks will try to guard him one-on-one with Iman Shumpert. It didn’t work that well in the two games they were matched up. Wade scored 28 points both times. If Wade can continue to thwart his fellow Chicago native, the Knicks’ defense will be in trouble.

Knicks - Steve Novak - Most of the Knicks’ offense will run through Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Neither are a real threat from outside. Anthony takes his share, but he’s a below-average three-point shooter. In fact, no one on the Knicks shot above the league average from three this season—incredible for a team once coached by Mike D’Antoni—except for Steve Novak. Shooting threes was one of the only things the Knicks did well against Miami when they played. For the Knicks to loosen up the stout Heat defense and free up their inside scorers, Novak will have to continue his remarkable shooting—and he’ll need help from Landry Fields, J.R. Smith and Baron Davis.

Combinations to Watch:

Heat - Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers - Although he’s part of the Big Three, Bosh is definitely the most overlooked of the Heat trio. And if Bosh is overlooked, Chalmers is invisible. Bosh will likely be matched up with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Tyson Chandler for much of the series. His role will be to make sure Chandler doesn’t focus all his attention on keeping LeBron and Wade out of the paint. When he draw Stoudemire, he needs to attack him. Despite Chalmers’ relative anonymity, he needs to be aggressive on both sides of the ball no matter who the Knicks have guarding him, because they will likely be ridiculously old. As the team’s best three-point shooter, he is crucial to the Heat’s spacing. Chalmers should dominate whatever matchup he has. These two are supporting actors in the Heat cast, but if they play their roles correctly, they can help the stars shine.

Knicks - Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire - Could it be anyone else? This has been the combination to watch for the Knicks for more than a year. Their struggles to mesh cost Mike D’Antoni his job, yet thanks to injuries, the jury is still out. Anthony is among the most ball-dominant players in the league, with a higher USG% than guys like Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki, but he also had his best season passing the ball, with an AST% of 21%. He will need to share the scoring load with Stoudemire, because will be standing across from him most of each game in the series. Stoudemire has been hobbled by injuries all season. He’s played well since coming back, but it’s still not clear whether the Knicks will get 2007-era STAT, or the unathletic, brick-laying 29-year-old they saw for much of the year. And even if he is resurgent, will it help or hurt Carmelo? This might be the question of the series.

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