I remember going to a Mets game about a dozen years ago and being shattered that Mike Piazza wasn’t in the lineup. Nothing against Todd Pratt, but it just wasn’t the same. I had and would continue to see Piazza hit every day for years afterward, but as any fan knows it’s less the performance and more the little things that make seeing your heroes in person so special. I could turn on the Mets any day and see Piazza drive one out to right center, but I wanted to see him drag the bat from the on-deck circle to home plate like some prehistoric war club, take off his hat to wipe his brow and show everyone his hideous blond highlights, even fire a few lasers down to second base between innings that made everyone wonder, “Why the hell can’t he do that in the game?”
So it’s going to be difficult for the thousands of Knicks fans and half dozen Nets fans at the Prudential Center tonight when they settle into their seats and hear, Playing the role of Amar’e Stoudemire tonight will be Shawne Williams – and in the role of Deron Williams, Jordan Farmar. On top of that, we’ll be missing Kris Humphries tonight as well, which means Kim Kardashian won’t be there either, although that’s mostly because the game is in Newark. Kim only hits the big towns, people.
But don’t let the lack of star power put a damper on this game. With Amar’e out and Chauncey Billups – who will start tonight – likely to see fewer minutes after his latest thigh contusion, it’s going to be a full-scale battle amongst the reserves to see who deserves those coveted playoff minutes. Shawne and Shelden Williams figure to start tonight, but Jared Jeffries and Ronny Turiaf will play big minutes as well. This is the competition to see who’s going to check Kevin Garnett or Chris Bosh, and although an injured Amar’e always makes us nervous, I for one am happy to see the reserve bigs duke it out for playoff PT in extended minutes tonight.
PG – Jordan Farmar: Dropped 18 and 11 on Detroit Wednesday in his first game since D-Will went down for good.
SG – Anthony Morrow: Will play tonight after missing a few games with left knee tendinitis.
SF – Travis Outlaw: Started for Sasha Vujacic last time these teams met with the Nets needing a bigger body to check Melo…and he was absolutely horrible. I’m hoping for a repeat performance.
PF – Dan Gadzuric: I know, right?
C – Brook Lopez: In three games against the Knicks, averaging 27 PPG and a whole six rebounds. At some point a few boards have to just bounce to him, right?
Knicks Lineup: Alan Hahn tweeted that Billups and Shawne Williams will start tonight, and with the Nets’ legitimate post presence I would be surprised to see Jeffries get another run with the first team. I’m expecting Shelden Williams but you never know when Ronny Turiaf will suddenly become healthy enough to get starter’s burn.
What’s up with Our Competition?: If you missed the Celtics’ comprehensive loss in Chicago last night, I’m happy to report that they looked awful. They couldn’t hit the ocean and were outrebounded 44-35 – great news for those like me who want to face Boston in round one. The Celtics’ creaky old legs will need an extra shot of oil as they’re back in action tonight at home against Washington.
Elsewhere, Miami took an ugly loss Wednesday to Milwaukee without Dwyane Wade, which has led to the not-so-startling revelation in the media that the Heat are under .500 when one of the big three doesn’t play. So, the Heat aren’t a good team when one of those guys is out – not really anything we didn’t already know. Miami hosts Charlotte tonight; Wade took part in today’s shootaround and should be ready to play in some capacity. Boston and Miami have the same record, each with four games yet to play.
Battle for the Sixth Seed: Philly is home for the Raptors tonight, still trailing the Knicks by a half game with just three games left to play. A Knicks win or 76ers loss tonight would clinch the tiebreaker for the Knicks based on record in divisional games. Should neither occur, and depending largely on the result of the Heat-Celtics game Sunday afternoon, the Knicks may well find themselves in an interesting scenario for their final regular season game, Wednesday in Boston: win and face the Heat in round one, lose and face Boston.
Finally, you need to follow Derrick Brown on Twitter. He’s like a wise old grandma. Enjoy the game if possible, and I’ll have a recap of sorts on the morrow.