My favorite part of the NBA playoffs is certainly not riding the highs and lows of the Jimmy Butler experience. As great as he plays two-three games per series, he’s better as an antagonist that a great team has to overcome. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the NBA, and with him returning to the floor, the Milwaukee Bucks had better win their next three games against the Miami Heat.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Eric Nehm are reporting that Antetokounmpo will be on the floor for Game 4 in Miami on Monday night, great news for sports fans.
For those who love nostalgia with their sports, I feel you. This guy *points to myself with both thumbs* regularly uses this platform to gripe about the uniform choices the league makes for the NBA’s more storied teams. If the New York Knicks ruined their first-round home games with their City Edition court and uniform I might have started a petition to get alternate jerseys banished from sports worldwide.
There are limits though, and one past that I don’t want to revisit is a Heat-Knicks playoff series. Even if I were guaranteed that Udonis Haslem would suplex Immanuel Quickley the way that P.J. Brown did Charlie Ward in ‘97, and I could also see Tom Thibedoau hanging from Bam Adebayo’s leg like Jeff Van Gundy clung to Alonzo Mourning, I still don’t want a best-of-seven of Heat vs. Knicks.
These two teams are far too close to the makeup of those teams from near the turn of the millennium. They played in the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. The final matchup of that rivalry was in 2000. The Knicks defeated the Miami Heat in seven games. They won Game 7, 83-82. That game was a track meet compared to the Knicks’ 72-70 Game 6 victory at Madison Square Garden.
In 2023, I’m supposed to watch a second-round series that features two of the empirically six slowest-paced teams in the entire NBA? There were 12 teams in the 2022-23 season that averaged 100-plus possessions per game, and 16 that averaged at least 99. The Knicks averaged 97.1 possessions per game and the Heat — 96.3.
It’s great having Madison Square Garden in the playoffs. It has one of the few crowds that consistently enhances the viewing experience. That’s why it would be so much better to have one of the championship favorites in that building for a second-round matchup — if the Knicks can finish off the Cleveland Cavaliers — than Kyle Lowry trying to take charges and Gabe Vincent and Max Strus initiating pick-and-roll action.
It sucks that Antetokoumnpo had to miss most of the first three games of this series. It put the team with the best record in the NBA in a hole that it now has to crawl out of. The Bucks had better get their Andy Dufrense on, because 2023 is not the time for a Knicks-Heat rematch.