More than halfway through the abbreviated NBA season, the league's biggest game of the year has arrived, and it somehow involves a team that might not be .500 at the All-Star break. Jeremy Lin takes his traveling show to South Beach on Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, TNT), as the New York Knicks take on the Miami Heat.
It goes without saying that this is the toughest test that the Knicks have faced this season. Presumably, a road game against the best team in the league is the hardest test that any team can face in a season in any sport. Additionally, the Heat have the benefit of an off day, while the Knicks had to play on Wednesday night in Atlanta.
New York won that game against the Atlanta Hawks comfortably, taking a 60-35 lead into halftime. Tyson Chandler led the Knicks with 34 minutes while both Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire played less than 30 minutes in the 99-82 rout. Thanks to that big first half performance, this might not be a typical back-to-back for the Knicks as far as fatigue goes.
Still, rested or not, the Knicks are facing the team with the best record in the league. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are both shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and both have assist-to-turnover ratios of 1.9. When they can't get their own shots, they have shooters to pass to; Mike Miller, James Jones and Mario Chalmers all shoot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. James and Wade defend almost as well as they create offense. A completely rested Knicks team should have trouble with the Heat, even on its best day.
Lin and the Knicks have had big games against very good teams. They made a decent Hawks team look awful on Wednesday night and they've previously risen to the occasion against the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. The games against those two teams featured what were arguably Lin's two best performances. Maybe those were aberrations, or maybe he's actually the kind of person that brings his best against the best.
Miami is a superior team to New York and Linsanity should be reined in a bit by the Heat, but it's not like the success of Lin and the Knicks over the last three weeks made any sense in the first place.