Can Spurs Hang On; Knicks On a Roll

LeBron and Carmelo
Could these two superstars be headed for a showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals?

There are two unique situations unfolding in the National Basketball Association right now. In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs have seen their lead in the race for one seed widdled to one and a half games over the Oklahoma City Thunder despite both teams going 7-3 over their last ten games.

In New York, the Knicks have won 10 straight games and are riding the hot hand of Carmelo Anthony who recently scored 50 in Miami and then pured int another 40 last night in a win over Atlanta. The Knicks are not going to catch the Heat who have already locked up the number one spot in the Eastern Conference, but the number two spot is just as vaulable right now considering their success over the Heat this season. Right now they have a half-game lead over the Indiana Pacers are on a five-game winning streak themselves. Securing the number two would mean getting Miami in the conference finals if things ‘go chalk’ for the two of them.

Have the Spurs Peaked?

Manu Ginobili
What impact will the injury to Ginobili have on the Spurs?

Earlier this season long before the Miami Heat went on their 27-game winning streak, the San Antonio Spurs had a pretty successful run of their own. Much of their streak was done with interchangeable parts like Tony Parker and Tim Duncan missing various games during their run and they didn’t miss a beat.

The question of course right now centers around the health of Manu Ginobili who is expected to miss several weeks with a hamstring injury. Will this injury be the down-fall of the Spurs in terms of getting past the Thunder this season? The numbers actually suggest no. With Ginobili missing time at various points of the season already, the Spurs have really not missed a beat with him at either end of the court.

Their offensive and defensive efficiency ratings have been slightly better with him off the court. The rub in my mind here is leadership though. Can the Spurs or any team for that matter replace the type of experience and leadership of such a grizzled veteran? I really want to say that it won’t make a difference for the Spurs but I believe they need Ginobili at some point late in the playoffs.

Knicks on the Move

I really don’t think there is much that keeps the Miami Heat up at night but somewhere in their bedroom closet lurks the New York Knicks. The Heat have lost three of four games to New York this season and we can argue all day about who played in those games and who didn’t but the fact remains the Knicks are clearly the only threat to the Heat.

We can suggest because the Bulls ended the Heat’s streak they are a threat but not in a seven game series. The Knicks can defend, they can rebound and they can score. These are three factors any team has to have in order to hang with the Heat over the course of a lengthy series. If the Knicks can keep Carmelo healthy down the stretch then that gives the Knicks a strong chance of taking the Heat down in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Games Tonight

Chicago at Brooklyn – Two and half games separate these two between the 4th and 6th seeds in the East and the Bulls would love to catch the Nets but not tonight. I like the Nets at home.

Dallas at Denver – The Mavs are in a must-win situation if they want to have any shot at the playoffs. The problem is that Denver just doesn’t lose at home and they won’t here either.

San Antonio at Oklahoma City – This will be a great preview of how the Spurs manage against the Thunder without Ginobili. Look for Tony Parker to have a huge game as the Spurs knock off the Thunder at home.