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NBA Weekly Roundtable 11: Miami's Biggest Hurdle

Michael Huettner, Annette Irwin, Andrew Seah |
April 12, 2013 | 10:25 a.m. PDT

Staff Writers

Can Carmelo steal the Eastern Conference Title or the NBA MVP from LeBron James and the Heat? (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Can Carmelo steal the Eastern Conference Title or the NBA MVP from LeBron James and the Heat? (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
The Knicks are quietly one of the league's best, the hot seat is rising in temperature every day for many coaches around the league, and is there a shot of anyone stealing LeBron's MVP award?

1) The New York Knicks are the latest team to reel off a double-digit winning streak, winning 13 in a row before falling at Chicago yesterday. They look like the biggest challenger to the Heat for the Eastern Conference Crown. Assuming the two squads meet, how many games do you think the Knicks could win in a seven game series with Miami?

Michael Huettner: Three games. The Knicks are the NBA’s hottest team right now, but I don’t think they can beat Miami in the playoffs. The best I see is the Knicks forcing Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat are just too dominant right now and have more experience winning big games, while the Knicks wouldn't be able to go on the road and win a Game 7. 

Annette Irwin: Two games. The Knicks have one been of the few teams to give Miami fits, winning three of four against the Heat this year, including both in Miami. I think the Knicks will win two games, three if J.R. Smith heats up, but can't take down the Heat for four games out of seven.

Andrew Seah: Two games. The Knicks undoubtedly pose the greatest threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference. They also won their last encounter on the back of Carmelo Anthony's historically great scoring stretch. New York likes to spread the floor with lethal three-point gunners and thrives on a steady diet of pick-and-rolls with a couple of Melo isolations thrown into the mix. Their shooting has tailed off towards the end of the season, but the likes of Steve Novak, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith and even Melo himself are all capable of lighting it up on any given night. Then again, Miami, when fully engaged, swarm ball handlers smartly enough to stifle the focal point of the Knicks' attack. Realistically, I expect the Knicks to take two games from the Heat. 

Keith Smart's time left with the Kings could be shorter than their time in Sacramento (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Keith Smart's time left with the Kings could be shorter than their time in Sacramento (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
2) As the best teams look towards the playoffs, the worst squads look towards fixing what’s wrong. On that note, which coach is the most likely to find himself out of a job at the end of the season?

Huettner: Lindsey Hunter. The Suns fired head coach Alvin Gentry at the beginning of the season, then named Hunter the interim coach. Phoenix has the worst record in the West, and needs an experienced coach to go forward with. That’s not to say Hunter will be out of a job next season, I just think he’ll go back to his assistant role as a member of the new staff.

Irwin: Mike D'Antoni. The "We Want Phil" chants at Staples last week during the retiring of Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers jersey shows how Laker Nation is not happy with Mike D'Antoni. If the Lakers miss the playoffs, then things could get dicy this offseason in Los Angeles. That's not to mention Vinny Del Negro down the hall, as rumors spread of the Clippers' interest in Stan Van Gundy. 

Seah: Keith Smart. Across the board, the Sacramento Kings' coach has made puzzling decisions and generally does not seem comfortable managing the egos in his locker room. His well-documented relationship with the ultra-talented (and equally temperamental) is strained, to say the least. And his early-season decision to start Aaron Brooks over the Isaiah Thomas was misguided as well. At 28-50, the Kings are third from last in the West. With the team and management facing an unpredictable period of impending change, Smart might be the first to be axed. 

Don't doubt LeBron James. Not for a second (Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons).
Don't doubt LeBron James. Not for a second (Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons).
3) LeBron James has been the heavy favorite all season, but Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are making late runs at the Most Valuable Player honors. Has James sealed up his trophy, or is there anything Anthony or Durant can do to steal it from him in the season’s closing days?

Huettner: LeBron James is going to win his fourth MVP award. He’s just been too consistently good this year. In almost any other year, Anthony and Durant would be viable MVP winners, but this is not a normal year. LeBron is having his best season of his career and one of the best seasons of all time. No one is taking this award away from him.

Irwin: There is no question James will be crowned MVP. Anthony has a valid argument in his favor, as he lacks the all-star supporting cast of James and leads the NBA in scoring right now. Plus, the Knicks are just 6-7 without Anthony in the lineup. But the Heat's 27-game winning streak can't be forgotten, nor can LeBron's dominance during that run. LeBron leads the Heat in almost every major category, has better overall numbers than Anthony, and is on the best team in the NBA. Case closed.

Seah: LeBron James is playing on a level this year that has rarely been seen, and has one that none has even come close to surpassing. He is the most dominant two-way player in the league, and the advanced metrics, statistics, and accolades paint a similar picture. He also just won his fifth straight Player Of The Month award. Kevin Durant comes in as the clear runner-up. Carmelo Anthony's torrid scoring stretch deserves all the superlatives, but when matched up with the historic 27-game winning streak that LeBron spearheaded, it feels underwhelming. Simply put, LeBron has left his imprints over the course of the season so forcefully and so consistently that there is no legitimate case for anyone else to be worthy of MVP honors over 'The King' himself. 



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