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Game Preview: Knicks at Heat- 01/26/22

The Bockers hit Miami to play the elite of the East.

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New York Knicks v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

On Wednesday, while I watch for snow, the New York Knicks (23-25) travel to Florida to battle the Miami Heat (30-17). This marks the first of three regular-season meetings between the two teams.

The Eastern Conference-leading Heat last played on Sunday, defeating the Lakers 113-107. On Monday, the eleventh-place Knicks once again fought back from a self-inflicted hole but lost 95-93 to the Cavaliers.

ESPN.com gives the Heat a 75.8% chance. They could have rounded up to 80%, no? Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m., snowbirds.

PROJECTED STARTERS

To punish the Heat for its Kyle Lowry tampering, the league confiscated their next second-round pick. Sure, tampering violates the rules, but wouldn’t you surrender a second-rounder to sign the point guard your team so desperately needs? Pat Riley would. (Go buy Blood in the Garden.)

For those who predicted a Lowry-age-regression, the almost-36-year-old leads his team in minutes per game (39), plus ranks fifth in the league for assists per game (8.3) and seventh for total assists (323). Too bad we won’t see him tonight due to personal reasons. Instead, 25-year old Gabe Vincent (9/1.9/3.1) will face off against Kemba Walker, the point guard acquired by the Knicks instead. If Kemba is able to play. Let’s sigh together.

A few teams, including (reportedly) the Knicks, were interested in free agent Duncan Robinson before he re-signed with Miami for five years, $90M. Then his shooting fell off a cliff. His percentages have gradually recovered over the season, but 36% from three and a 54% eFG are still down from last year. Despite the decline, the York, Maine native (lovely place) ranks sixth in both 3-Pt Field Goals and 3-Pt Field Goal attempts, and he tries 8.6 triples per game.

His opponent tonight, Evan Fournier, signed a four-year, $73M deal with New York last summer. Evan is shooting 39% from deep and has a 54% eFG. Smarter folks than me can calculate which team made out better.

Now in his 11th campaign, Jimmy Butler has averaged 17.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.1 assists over his career, played in 5-time All-Star games, and won the 2014-15 Most Improved Player award. He may also be your father.

RJ Barrett has been tearing it up in January (23 ppg, 6.6 rpg, and 3.5 apg for the month) and emerging as the team leader. Let’s see how he fares against Jimmy, who’s a pesky defender—he learned from Thibs, after all.

Former Longhorn P.J. Tucker has averaged 8.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in his 11th NBA campaign. The 36-year old Tucker was a tough defender for last year’s champion, the Milwaukee Bucks, and Julius Randle can expect that same tenacity tonight.

Jersey boy Bam Adebayo is not the biggest center at 6’9”, 255lbs, but his 7’2.75” wingspan makes up for it. He is the team leader in rebounds (9.9 rpg) and their third-leading scorer (18.5 ppg). For New York, Mitchell Robinson is questionable to rejoin the lineup tonight due to a sprained ankle. Nerlens Noel is questionable, too, after playing perhaps his best game of an injury-addled season against the Cavs. Could Jericho Sims be pried off the bench? Please?

Sneer-against-humanity Tyler Herro is in health and safety protocols. Boo.

PREDICTIONS

My snow shovel is handy by the door so I can use it to clear the walk or pummel the TV after another Knicks loss. I kid. Sorta. This one is gonna be tough. Erik Spoelstra is a bona fide coach, and his team ranks third in Offensive Rating, True Shooting, Rebound Percentage, and Assist Percentage. They hold the league’s eighth-best defensive rating. But, hey, their pace is 28th, almost as poor as the Knicks (30th). Small consolation, that….

New York can compete with any team in the league when executing well. That’s why I want to obliterate furniture after half-hearted jogs, mental lapses, and fake comebacks. Bring lethargy against a Spoelstra-coached team and they will spank you. So don’t be lethargic, Knicks.

Bah. Maybe I’ll just throw a snowball at the TV. I’ll need the it to watch the Knicks play the Bucks on Friday. Tonight’s prediction: Knicks by -7.

FTX Arena. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. MSG and NBA League Pass. Torch ’em, Knickerbockers!