It may be No. 1 vs. No. 16, but this isn’t the NCAA Tournament and Amar’e Stoudemire is no slouch. He’ll feed off the energy from the crowd, embrace his underdog status and look to stick it to LeBron. His 6-10 frame and deceptively powerful upper body should allow him to score once he’s in the post â€“ but will the South Beach import even allow STAT to back him down in the first place? There’s no doubt that Amar’e has developed a nice midrange jumper of late, but consistency is the key. If LeBron gives him room and Amar’e starts sinking 18-footers, he may jump out to a surprising early lead.
We all saw STAT’s late-game swat of LeBron during the regular season, but he’s a little too close to Andris Biedrins on the defensively incapable scale. Maybe the bright lights will prompt him to move his feet occasionally, but I’m seeing flashes of LeBron rumbling down the lane followed by a ferocious “get off my court” slam. Because really, there are only two LeBrons that could emerge: the one looking to reclaim his kingly throne and makes us revisit the “greatest ever” conversation, or the inexplicably disinterested greatest that could have been.
LeBron could complain to the non-existent refs, point to his injured elbow or go for too many “I’m going to let you get by me so I can swat you from behind and cause Steve Kerr to shriek in delight” blocks. Or he could decide enough is enough and send us little bloggers with our psychological theories and explanations packing.
STAT is less confusing. No matter what Carmelo does, Amar’e is New York’s basketball superstar. He’s the reason why the Knicks will rise and fall. But the summer of 2010 will always join him to LeBron at the hip. New York ordained Amar’e as their basketball priest, ignoring whether or not he was ready to face the congregation. Well, here’s his chance to prove his worth. To prove that the Knicks didn’t overpay, didn’t invest too much heart, hope and love. To live up to the lofty expectations his city adheres.
Ultimately we’ll see two prideful players wratch it up seventeen notches. If Amar’e wins, he’ll validate his signing to Knicks fans everywhere. If LeBron comes away victorious, he’ll merely validate that No. 1 seed. Either way, someone’s going home unhappy.
Jay Bilas: “LeBron’s strength and ability to get by Amar’e off the bounce will be the difference. The only thing that would keep LeBron from winning would be if he settled for jump shots. Amar’e would have to back LeBron down into the lane and overpower him, but I don’t think he could do that given LeBron’s size and strength. Good match, though.”
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