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Game Preview: Knicks vs Heat, 3/29/2021

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The tattered Knicks take on the warming Heat.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Back to the city this evening, sullen after a win. Mitchell Robinson is done for the season breaking his foot going for a steal and landing awkwardly. Derrick Rose’s reaction to the news sunk me, sunk us all.

Perhaps a shred of sun can warm our backs as we walk to the Garden. The fourth-in-the-East (!!!) Knicks take on the dreaded Miami Heat, who are eighth and flailing after their Finals appearance. Today they’ll be sporting a bit of a new look, though maybe not exactly what you’d expect as Victor Oladipo has yet to join the club. Miami might be underperforming given the pedigree but they’d like to warn against you taking them lightly.

That feels kind of ominous coming from the bejeweled slickster himself, Pat the Rat. I do not trust that guy except to make my life hell.

Projected Starters

With Mitchell missing, New York will again turn to Nerlens Noel to man the pivot. This also means we’ll be getting a steady diet of sturdy screens from Taj Gibson. Of course Taj will be doing that predominantly for Immanuel Quickley who still can’t crack the starting unit despite...

I hate when the Elfers wet their pants and then say it’s on everyone that is outside of these pissed pants to explain the warm sensation they have regarding Payton. The guy has taken the perceived role of an ideal Thibs-point guard to mean he should play against type. Yes, I think Thibodeau wants his point to attack the rim and be a threat to get to the line and score, and no, I do not think Elf is talented in that respect and the numbers do indeed back it up. A paltry .191 free throw rate in concert with a 21 assist and 12.9 turnover percentage over a 23.2 usage is BAD!

For comparison Julius Randle’s usage is only a little higher at 27.7 but his assist percentage (26.8) and free throw rate (.327) are significantly higher! With a comparable turnover percentage. Oh and then there’s the shooting percentages, but I won’t even bother.

Meanwhile if Elfrid were to play to his type he’d still be a bad starting point guard. He’s cast as a floor general, but he lacks vision and touch as a passer! One of the few aspects he brings a “plus” dimension to is size for the point guard. Yet he is not a plus defender! A -0.9 Defensive Box Plus Minus despite being a starter on one of the league’s best defenses. Astounding really. The cherry on top, if you don’t believe the statistical hype, Elf routinely gets back cut and let’s shooters fade to space as he ball watches. Stuck between considering a double team and wondering why there was a Yellow Pages delivered to his house within the last year. Do people still have land lines or did i just leave a deadly shooter wide open while shading a so-so post player?

Elfrid Payton v Goran Dragic

Alec Burks v Duncan Robinson

RJ Barrett v Jimmy Butler

Julius Randle v Trevor Ariza

Nerlens Noel v Bam Adebayo

The Heat are coming off a loss to the Hornets without LaMelo Ball. Sixth straight loss, might I add. They’ll be bolstered by the return of Goran Dragic who has always been a dangerous scorer and gives Miami a stronger sense of structure and offensive focus. It allows Jimmy Butler to attack weak spots and be less of a focal point. Danger.

After losing Kelly Olynyk in the Victor Oladipo trade, Miami will be happy to fit Nemanja Bjelica into the rotation right in the Nemanja Bjelica shaped hole. This Balkan connection entering the picture for Miami tonight is worrying on paper, but neither have played in quite some time, so maybe they’ll need a game or two to oil the joints.

Whatever, nothing matters anyway. I miss Mitch too much.

Injured New York Knicks’ Patrick Ewing watches from the side Photo by Keith Torrie/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Keys & Predictions

The Bam Adebayo to Duncan Robinson get-action connection is one of the most frightening weapons in Miami’s gun belt. We’ve seen a fun size version of it with Julius Randle and Reggie Bullock. Earlier in the year, Mitchell Robinson did a fantastic job keeping Bam in check as much as possible. It will be interesting to see the choppy hands of Noel dicing it up, hopefully he can force them to run and re-run it, only to produce a swing pass. It’s boring but that’s the kind of work that has helped make it hard for opponents to shoot a good percentage against the Knicks. It’s funny they were supposed to regress to the mean and be more of a league average group defending the arc. Instead they still have the best 3-point percentage defense in the league.

The real story tonight will be the latest edition of RJ Barrett versus Jimmy Butler.

I won’t drill into it, because I’ve spent enough time excoriating Elfrid Putrid and I should let you go. So dig all the way into that, it’s very good!

Game is at 7:30, Knicks by -9

Miami Heat v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Parting Shot

This matchup used to always bring me anxious excitement. The eagerness to see what could happen next between these similarly styled defensive juggernauts. Then the Knicks altered their reputation to be the laughingstock of the NBA. This season’s small bit of continuity and progression has shown the first signs of sustainable life on planet Knicks in ages. Cling to it.

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat at MSG for Game4... Knicks Ch Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images