There are only eight ways the New York Knicks' series against the Miami Heat can go down. The Knicks can win in four, five, six, or seven games, and the Heat can do the same. Let's take a look at them, how each one might happen, and the odds of each going down that way. This is how we're doing our series preview.
Heat in four. You'll see some people picking this, honestly: The Heat are probably still the experts' pick to win the title this year, and many national basketball writers (with some justification) love to remind the world of how overhyped the Knicks are. It would be awfully depressing to end this lunatic season with another four-game wipeout, and not just because it would extend, again, the streak of seasons without a playoff victory. Also: Mike Woodson's probably not the coach anymore within, like, a week if this goes down. Phil Jackson will be on the back page of the Post six times by Memorial Day. Odds: 12 percent.
Knicks in four. So, it's probably fair to say this is the least likely scenario. This would probably require LeBron James getting hurt five minutes into Game 1, Dwyane Wade getting hurt five minutes into Game 1, or both. That said: Can you imagine how loud the Garden would be if the Knicks took a 2-0 lead in Game 3 next Thursday night? Odds: 1 percent.
Heat in five. We bet this will be the most popular pick. It allows people to give a nod to the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony without giving them much of a chance to win the series, and it lets the Heat win the series at home. It makes a lot of sense, too: The Heat win the first two at home, the Knicks — feeding off a frenzied crowd — win Game 3 but just fall short in Game 4, and the Heat breeze in Game 5. This scenario is so scary that it's starting to make us think the Knicks really, really need to win one of those first two games in Miami. Odds: 25 percent.
Knicks in five. The key to the Knicks' series, obviously, is going to be biting into the Heat's home-court advantage (which is not one of the strongest home-court advantages in the NBA, to be honest) and then trying to ride the giddy home crowd to three home wins. This also helps prey on the Heat's biggest weakness, which is how they tighten up in late-game scenarios. So the Knicks have to get one on the road. Asking them to get two, in the first five games, seems like asking a lot. Odds: 5 percent.
Heat in six. When you look at the actual strengths and balance of the two teams, this seems the most likely pick: The Heat look about two games better than the Knicks in a short series. Not a wipeout, but not particularly close, either. But we don't see a way the Knicks win two games and then lose at home. The Garden is going to be one of the major things the Knicks have going for them this series. We'll say if the Heat win the series in six, showing the fortitude you need to win a decisive, wild game at the Garden, you have to continue to like them going forward. Odds: 11 percent.
Knicks in six. This is the ideal, perfect-case, the-Heat-are-wobbly scenario: The Knicks somehow sneak out a 3-2 lead heading into the loudest MSG crowd you'll ever witness. The fun part about this is that, if it gets this far, several questions will be answered: Is Amar'e stepping up on offense in the half-court game? Are the Knicks the team with more confidence at the end of the game? Is LeBron starting to get that worried, fingernail-biting thing going again? The answers are all yes, and the Knicks are heading places they haven't been in fifteen years. Odds: 18 percent.
Heat in seven. This assumes a 1987/2001 World Series–type of deal, when both teams win all of their home games and home-court advantage is all that really matters. If it makes it this far, you can see the Heat actually dominating this game: The Knicks will have exhausted all of their resources and energy just to push it this far, and LeBron — who would probably ride his damn bike to the game again — could speed up the tempo of the game and blow the Knicks off the court. Is it a victory if the Knicks take the Heat to seven games and lose? Let's worry about that when it comes. Odds: 17 percent.
Knicks in seven. Heat are up 101-100, 7.6 seconds left, Knicks call time-out. Iman Shumpert gives it to Carmelo on the wing, who posts up LeBron, as the time ticks down ... and down ... and down ... Carmelo turns, dribbles and ... Odds: 11 percent.