The Miami Heat seem to have all the momentum in their first round playoff series against the New York Knicks, but that could change if the Heat's road woes resurface in New York.
With Games 3 and 4 taking place in New York at the fabled Madison Square Garden, the Heat hope they can shake off their shaky road performance from the regular season. Miami went 18-15 on the road during the regular season, compared to a league-best 28-5 record at home.
18-15 isn't exactly bad (indeed, only four teams performed better on the road this year), but it seemed like at times the Heat were a different team altogether on the road. But the stats suggest the differences were not terribly significant. Miami shot 48% at home and 46% on the road.
Two stats do stand out. The Heat averaged two fewer free-throw attempts per game on the road (17.7 versus 19.8 at home), confirming the widely-held belief that referees give more favorable calls to the home team. Additionally, the Heat average one extra turnover per game on the road (15.3 versus 14.1 at home).
But more than Miami's road struggles, the key fact heading into tonight's game will be the lineup changes on both sides. New York will be without Amare Stoudemire following his post-Game 2 outburst that left him with a bloody hand.
Though it is tempting to think the Knicks will hurt from the loss of Stoudemire, they actually performed better without him during the regular season. It is possible his style of play does not mesh well with fellow All-Star teammate Carmelo Anthony's, so the Knicks could be in better shape without Stoudemire in Game 3.
Steve Novak will get more minutes in Stoudemire's place. He led the NBA in three-point percentage this season, and opponents' three-point shooting has been the Heat's achilles heel this season. Miami will need to make an extra effort to close out on New York's wing shooters in order to keep their three-point specialists at bay.
Meanwhile, it is still unknown whether Bosh can return to New York in time for tipoff after spending the night in Miami witnessing the birth of his second child. Even if he can get back, Bosh likely won't be fresh after getting into Miami at 2 am Thursday morning and heading straight to the delivery room.
Bosh has not been the guy killing the Knicks in this series, though. Even if he is out or at half speed, New York has yet to figure out how to stop both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. James has averaged 25.5 points and 6 assists per game so far, while Wade has added 22 points per game.
Tipoff is at 7pm.