The mindset of the Knicks fan will go one of two drastic ways heading into the All-Star Break, and it all hinges on tonight's game between New York and the Miami Heat. If Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony can go into South Beach and halt the Heat's seven game demolition streak? Cue the deliriousness! The Knicks would officially be one of the league's top teams and a true contender in the East. Oh, but a loss. A loss, especially one in which Lin and/or Anthony don't play well and the Knicks are run off the floor? Well, this whole Carmelo Anthony thing just is never ever going to work.
Truth is, and I know this sounds like me just raining on the hype parade for this mid-season basketball game, Thursday's game between the Knicks and the Heat is not a referendum, so it shouldn't be dealt with as such. The Knicks can just as easily win this game and lose a bunch coming out of the All-Star break, or vice versa. It's still just about the midway point of a wacky season with plenty of games to be played. Yes, the Knicks and their fans want to see Carmelo Anthony play as he's capable of. The Knicks' 99-82 blowout victory over the Hawks on Wednesday was nice, but Anthony has just 26 points in his two games since coming back from injury and joining the Linsanity. When the Knicks play good teams when it matters (like, the playoffs), Anthony is going to have put up more than 15 or so points. Chances are, for the Knicks to beat the Heat tonight, that's also the case.
The Knicks all of a sudden are a very deep team with a bench that can light it up. There are deadly shooters on the Knicks' bench like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, there's a veteran point guard in Baron Davis who will continue to round into shape, and there's a defensive stopper in Jared Jeffries. But as any NBA team, the Knicks need to follow the lead of their best players, and even with Lin's recent rise, the Knicks' best players are Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Both of them are in the midst of incredibly sub-par seasons by their standards, and tonight would be a good time for both of them to flip the switch and put together a vintage performance.
Miami is in the middle of a great stretch, a seven game winning streak in which they've essentially blown out each of their opponents. LeBron James is enjoying a ridiculously good season, on pace to put together one of the best overall statistical campaigns in the history of the sport (currently at 27.6 points, 6.8 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game). And oh yeah, there is Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, too.
The Knicks and Heat have played once this year, with the Heat prevailing by 10, but the game took place BL (Before Lin). This will no doubt be the toughest test for Lin yet, on the road against the league's best and hottest team. Lin, so far, has not shown any aversion to the brightest lights, as perhaps his best overall performance this season came last weekend on national television against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. But as the Knicks felt like they were on top of the world after beating the Mavs, they followed it up with a loss to the underwhelming Nets the next night. Just as the win over Dallas didn't make the Knicks world beaters, a victory over the Heat wouldn't either.
Don't get me wrong, it would sure be sweet to knock the Heat off heading into the All-Star Break. Perhaps it would give the Knicks a confidence boost heading into the second half. But more importantly, you want to see the Knicks' real superstars start playing like them. Tonight would be a good time to start.