I believe health, match-ups and home court advantage are incredibly important to playoff success, but it's obvious how important defense is in the early rounds. Of the 8 first round match-ups, 7 teams with a better defensive rating advanced with the exception of the Atlanta Hawks, who were 13th in defensive rating to the Orlando Magic's 3rd. In total, 7 of the 16 teams were outside the top 10 in defensive rating with just one advancing (Atlanta).This is strong evidence that getting into the top 4 in the east is essential for D'Antoni next year. There is no question that the Knicks need to improve defensively, and when you look at these numbers they will have to move closer to the top 5 defensively if they are to compete with the Bulls and HEAT moving forward. That is, unless they can get into the top 10 defensively yet live at the absolute top offensively.
In the second round, things changed a bit. In the Western Conference the Mavericks (8th) got past the Los Angeles Lakers who statistically ranked higher than them in both offensive (6th) and defensive (6th) rating and who possessed home court advantage. The Thunder (15th) got past the Grizzlies (9th) in 7 games thanks in most part to their offense, which is ranks 5th in the NBA. In their 4 victories, which included a 133 point performance in triple over time, the Thunder averaged 111 ppg, and 101.75 points in regulation, some 4 points higher than the Grizz gave up on average (97.6) throughout the year. more.