When the Knicks signed Tyson Chandler to go with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, there was a lot of talk about future playoff matchups with the Heat.
No one was dreaming about the first round as the seventh seed, but that's another story for another time. That's the way things have played out and the Knicks will have to figure out the Heat if they want to win their first playoff series since 2000.
You can pretty much throw out the three Knicks losses to the Heat in the regular season and we aren't just saying that because it supports the notion that the Knicks can push Miami without actually beating them. You can throw them out because none of them are particularly relevant to the current state of affairs.
The first game was without Anthony, the second game was with Jeremy Lin as the skid that led to Mike D'Antoni's departure was getting underway and the third came earlier this month when Stoudemire was missing from the lineup. You could use that as a shorthand for the entire Knicks season -- though you'd be leaving out three or four other iterations of this year's team -- but the point is that what's past isn't prologue.
So instead of dwelling on those defeats, we'll just look forward to what both teams will need to do to win this series. We'll start with the Heat since their list is quite a bit shorter.
Quite simply, the Heat need to have their supporting cast play at least competent basketball. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going to do what they do and we'll get to Chris Bosh in a moment, but they are going to need some contribution from the other players on the roster.
How much will depend on the night. It could be a three for Mike Miller or defense from Udonis Haslem or something else that ensures the Knicks don't make big runs when the Big Three aren't all on the court.
The Knicks are a bit more complicated, but the biggest individual matchup is going to be Chandler on Bosh. The Heat will do everything they can do to draw Chandler out of the paint, forcing him to choose between giving Bosh the jumper and risking a penetration past him to the hoop.
When Chandler is out on Bosh, the rest of the Knicks have to do a better job of rebounding. Second chances will be lethal in this series, which means Stoudemire, in particular, has to actually work to make things happen on the glass.
That might seem like a pipe dream, but it doesn't make it any less necessary. It will also be crucial for Mike Woodson to figure out a way to come up with lineups that work instead of just sticking with his three biggest names when it is clear it isn't working.
The Anthony-Chandler-Stoudemire group hasn't worked all that well this season, though it would be hard to imagine it working given all of the obstacles placed in the way, and there's good reason to think the team is better off with two of them on the court at the same time instead of all three. Woodson has to be open to that because it won't take much more than one run to lose these games.
Finally, we come to Steve Novak and J.R. Smith, the top two Knicks reserves and two men who should really never play on different teams again for the rest of their lives because they have created endless smiles in their short time together. The aggressive rotations the Heat use on defense are going to leave people open from three and the Knicks have to hit those threes if they are going to have any chance at pulling off this upset.
Novak and Smith have to be a big part of this, especially when they are on the court against the lesser Miami lineups. It is admittedly terrifying to rely on a player as erratic as Smith, but when he's hitting shots it is awfully tough to beat these Knicks.
That's a lot to make happen in a very short period of time. Frankly, it would have just been easier to show up against Cleveland last Friday and have avoided this matchup altogether.
Not an option, unfortunately. It's the Heat and we start finding out Saturday if the Knicks can dial up a little of that old playoff magic.