On Wednesday, the New York Knicks (31-42) treated us to one of the most enjoyable games of the year, replete with youthful pace, passing, and record-breaking in their defeat of the Hornets, 121-106. You would be forgiven for feeling a hint of melancholy amidst the post-game glow and wistfully dreaming of what the season could have been had certain changes come sooner.
The off-season will provide much more time for hindsight. With nine games left, our heroes jet to Miami to face the Heat (47-26) this Friday. This will be the third and final meeting of their season series, in which Miami leads 2-0.
When they last clashed, Tyler Herro led Los Calientes with 25 points on 9-for-18 shooting in a 115-100 victory. RJ Barrett balled out for New York, logging 46 points and nine rebounds. His 14-22 from the charity stripe was his only shortcoming. Silver linings: those 22 free throws were his season-high, and his FT attempts have jumped to 8.9 over the last 14 games.
There’s no shame in losing to Miami. They sit on the Eastern conference throne and possess the league’s sixth-best defense and 12th-ranked offense, but are a tortoise-like 29th in pace. Since the team boasts about their culture, I’d be remiss not to include this bit of salacious, sideline nonsense:
Evidently, the Heat will be missing a bunch of players tonight. Should be easy pickings!
Tip-off’s at 8 p.m., alligator aficionados.
Who’s out for Miami? Duncan Robinson (achilles) and P.J. Tucker (knee) are “day to day” on the injury list. Caleb Martin (knee) and Herro (knee) are questionable. Victor Oladipo will sit tonight for rest, and Gabe Vincent’s toe will sideline him, too. Even Jimmy Butler is doubtful, having boo-booed his ankle, perhaps while waltzing with coach Eric Spoelstra.
Surely, some of those chaps might give it a go this eve. But who’s left for our feisty Knicks to trounce?
In his 16th season, Kyle Lowry (6’, 196 lbs) continues to outrun Father Time. The 35-year old Villanova alum leads the Heat in minutes per game (34.2) and dimes (7.7). He also chips in 13.1 ppg. Lowry’s counterpart, the Swiss Army Knickerbocker Alec Burks, is the younger guy at 30, but his hair will totally be gray by next season, courtesy of Tom Thibodeau.
Third-year man Max Strus (6’5”, 215 lbs) and sophomore Haywood Highsmith (6’7”, 220 lbs) are the remaining wings available on Miami’s depth chart. Strus has played in 60 games this year and averaged 10.4 points plus three boards. Highsmith, however, has only appeared in 14 games and averaged 7.6 minutes. Most likely, Coach Spo will cajole one of his injury-list guys into playing rather than start Highsmith. If not…advantage New York.
Markieff Morris (6’9”, 245 lbs) has managed 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in a season shortened to 15 games by Jokic-induced whiplash. The former Jayhawk has played 11 seasons for six teams, including the Wizards and Suns, and still has one more championship ring than I do. Still working on my jumper, though.
For New York, Julius Randle remains questionable. Also, he’s questionable for tonight’s game (troublesome quadriceps). Look for Sky-Highin’ Obi Toppin to follow up Wednesday’s 18/11/6 performance with another gem.
Bam Adebayo (6’9”, 255 lbs) has averaged 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in his fifth NBA year. The one-time Wildcat will likely meet rookie Jericho Sims in the starting line-up with Mitchell Robinson (sore lower back) doubtful. Sims started his first career game on Wednesday and played well, logging 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting in 26 minutes. Adebayo will be a tough assignment for the former Longhorn, so prepare for endless histrionic screaming fits from Thibs.
With all those Miami guys on the injury report, this game is eminently winnable for New York. Seriously. ESPN.com gives the Heat a 69% chance to win. I give them a 69% chance to suffer the fate of Charlotte, baby! Prediction: Knicks by eight in another fun and fast-paced basketball game.
FTX Arena. Friday. 8 p.m. Flame on, Knicks!
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