Analysis: The best player in the world continues to improve. LeBron James averaged career-highs in field goal percentage (56.5), three-point percentage (40.6) and rebounds (8.0) in leading the Heat to the NBA's best record and a 12-game lead over the No. 2 seed Knicks in the Eastern Conference. A stretch from February 3 to March 25 defined the Heat's season, as the team rattled off 27 consecutive victories, the second-longest winning streak in league history. Since losing to the Bulls on March 27, Miami has gone 10-1 despite resting their stars for a playoff push.
The team will attempt its title defense with a bench that's a bit more robust than the squad that beat the Thunder in five games in last year's Finals. Among the new faces are Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Chris Anderson. Allen, who turns 38 in July, has embraced his new role as sixth man, providing the second unit with perimeter shooting.
Miami is heavily favored to return to the Finals, but New York and Indiana are both capable of hanging with James and co. in a seven-game series.
Analysis: The Knicks aren't just an old team; they're the oldest in NBA history. Among the gray hairs are Jason Kidd (age 40), Marcus Camby (age 39), Kenyon Martin (age 35) and rookie Pablo Prigioni (age 35). Two more players, Kurt Thomas (age 40) and Rasheed Wallace (age 38), logged logged time as well but will not be on the playoff roster. Despite all of the geriatrics, the Knicks totaled 54 victories, the franchise's most since a 57-win season in 1996-97.
Carmelo Anthony led the way offensively, averaging an NBA-best 28.7 points per game. He was especially potent at the conclusion of the regular season, averaging 36.9 points per game in the month of April. The other catalyst for the team's success was the emergence of J.R. Smith. The ninth-year player, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, is among the favorites to win the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Amar'e Stoudemire's playoff status is uncertain due to a knee injury. For the purpose of the simulation, we included Stoudemire on the Knicks' roster and depth chart. However, the team's success may not depend on his participation, as the Knicks were 15-12 in games in which Stoudemire logged minutes.
Chances of Winning Conference Finals: Heat 81.6% - Knicks 9.2%
Series MVP: LeBron James - 25.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 7.5 APG
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