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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Heat- 02/25/22

The Tank-a-Thon commences.

NBA: New York Knicks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Enough is enough. It’s time for the Knicks to drop the charade of a play-in tournament appearance and resign themselves to the lottery race. Even if they did manage to make the playoffs, who the hell wants to see another embarrassing dismantling at the hands of a superior team. This team clearly needs more talent, and the best way to do so is to pair another elite youngster to our 25-year-old and younger core. Names like Jaden Ivey and TyTy Washington are the two best examples of a lead guard the Knicks have been dreaming of for two decades.

Tom Thibodeau has coached this team into oblivion. The front office made mistakes in building a team that plays to Thibodeau’s weaknesses. Julius Randle, Kemba Walker, and Evan Fournier have been disappointments for varying reasons. But there is still time to salvage the point of this season, which is to position themselves towards acquiring more talent. The best way to do so is through the draft. Their best bet is for them to continue losing and end up one of the top five worst record teams. This would vault them in a prime position to nab either Washington or even better, Ivey.

Very few Knicks fan expected the team to be in this position at the start of the season. And it takes a unique Knicks-driven ennui to accept this fate. But the dreams of Zion WIlliamson demanding a trade to the Knicks are, for now, a dream. This upcoming draft has four to five game-changing talents the Knicks could build around. Most notably at the point. The only way forward is to admit defeat, play the kids, and lose not by actively tanking, but by playing the young talent over the aging vets.

Tip-off’s at 7:30 pm EST.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Kyle Lowry is a Knicks killer. Has been his whole career. His steady hand, high IQ, and three-point stroke are Kryptonite to a Knicks team with decades-old issues at the point. Lowry hasn’t given the Heat the tertiary scorer the Heat hoped he would be with a three-year, $90 million dollar deal. But he has been a seamless culture fit as a two-way defensive dawg willing to give everything he has for a win. Lowry is sure to find a rejuvenation against the Knicks' black hole at point guard. Expect double-digit output from the veteran maestro.

It’s possible Jimmy Butler is the most overrated player in the league. He’s certainly a dawg with two-way ability who is the perfect avatar for Miami Heat culture. But he has one of the most albatross contracts in the NBA for a player who is not an elite scorer and has never been put in the conversation with the NBA’s best offensive players. His defense is elite, as is his leadership which makes up for a lot. But, his scoring ppg in the playoffs has dropped below 20 multiple times in the last few years, including a measly 14.5 ppg in last year’s first-round exit to the Bucks. The Knicks are exactly the kind of team Butler can pad his stats and show his defensive prowess against.

Another overrated player, albeit way more one-dimensional. Duncan Robinson is a knockdown shooter and Miami has done a phenomenal job of covering for Robinson on defense. Miami is one of the few teams where the collective talent and effort of the team on defense, where Robinson doesn't hurt them in that area. His shooting is down significantly this season, at 36% but you can never count him in out clutch situations, especially coming off staggered screens.

If there is any reason to doubt the Milwaukee Bucks's ability to repeat, it’s because PJ Tucker is no longer in the starting line-up. Miami’s acquisition of Tucker was one of the best under-the-radar pick-ups of the summer. Tucker is a prototypical Heatle. While his overall efficiency and scoring ability has slipped, the Heat are enough of a collective effort team to again, make up for any deficiencies in his slowdown. Tucker will still take on the toughest defensive assignment of any position while knocking down a clutch three when needed.

It feels like the NBA has already seen the best of Bam Adebayo. And while he might ever be the offensive juggernaut that Elton Brand or Chris Webber was, his athletic ability and threat as a lob option make him un-guardable in the post. Pairing him with Lowry will make for a dangerous two-man game once the playoffs come around but it will be his ability to guard bigger, taller centers, allowing the Heat to go small, that will open up the team's best offensive and defensive line-up.

PREDICTION

There have been years past where the Knicks were in tanking position and managed to Knicks everything up by overachieving at the wrong time. This front office is shrewd enough to have their eye on the prize in the lottery. With Walker benched for the rest of the season it will force Thibs hand to play the kids. Now is the time for kids like Miles McBride and Cam Reddish to get legitimate burn while racking up hard-fought losses. Miami takes this Eastern Conference clash by single digits because the Knicks will play their asses off after an extended break.