Tonight the Knickerbockers (1-3) square off against the Miami Heat (1-2). One week in and we’re seeing the Knicks show a competitive spirit that has kept them in games and made them a tough out. This should come as no surprise because David Fizdale cut his coach-teeth with the Heat and Miami has been on that very same track for years now under his and head coach Erik Spoelstra’s tutelage.
The Heat are a mishmash of youth and experience working together and haranguing the league with a physical and emotional brand of basketball. This matchup may come down to who wants it the most. Or it may just come down to can Trey Burke and Enes Kanter keep Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside from shuffling around, engaging a full on slop-fest and still making it look easy.
This may be Lance Thomas’ last look as a starter (btw, feels like a career year in the making for Berman). The ever-evaluating Coach Fizdale has openly wondered if the lack of production on offense will relegate him to a bench role. Fiz has also shown a proclivity for keeping the team engaged, and maybe Lance can withstand the demotion. So Mario Hezonja may get a look at the starting power forward. If that’s something Hezonja wants, he’d be wise to show it against Fizdale’s old crew.
Josh Richardson vs Tim Hardaway Jr. Here comes Junior Bug’s stiffest challenge of the young season. Tim has been averaging 27 a game on 42% shooting. Richardson is exactly the kind of quick, wiry, tough defender that may keep Tim from finding enough comfortable places to launch from. Maybe tonight’s the night he should try his damnedest to get to the line ten times.
Richardson is more than challenging. He can throttle bigger players to keep them off their rhythm and use his length to contest.
He can bottle up some shifty dribblers and force a pick up or pass. Then going the other way he is crafty enough to find the open man or punish you for not finding him. A career 37% shooter from deep, he’s been off in his first three games this year but he’s taking 9 a game!
You also can’t just leave him unchecked. Stop ball, please.
It’s not Dwyane Wade or Kelly Olynyk because I just do not like them. So this will have to come down to who is even playing for Miami. The injury bug has struck and the Heat are in the midst of a little lineup hokey pokey. Whiteside and Derrick Jones Jr missed practice whereas James Johnson participated in full and might be ready. If so he’s a major cog in their wheel. It looks like Justise Winslow, did side work at practice yet he is probable to make his season debut. Wayne Ellington and Dion Waiters are out.
Winslow’s inclusion could energize the team and would make the Heat just a little scarier.
According to 538, the Knicks have a mere 18% chance of winning. I, of course, take that as a sign of life. Which should be considered a key to the game. May the New York contingent in Miami show all the way out and make this feel like a homer.
Knicks by 3. L’Chaim.