Miami HEAT at New York Knicks Game Preview

Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler

The Miami HEAT face the New York Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The HEAT fell to the Knicks 98-94 in their last meeting on March 31. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What positives can you take away from Miami’s loss to Cleveland Tuesday night?

Couper Moorhead: There’s no better answer for this than Bam Adebayo. While the team had its struggles for most of the night Adebayo had a number of nice individual plays which offered a glimpse into his behind the scenes development. We know Adebayo can dunk and we know he can move his feet on defense – he had one particularly nice defensive possession against LeBron James – but on Tuesday he got back so showing off some of the skills that were on display at Summer League, namely a tight handle for a player his size and a soft touch with the jumper. Yes, some of the numbers came when the game was relatively out of reach but with young players like Adebayo you’re looking for signs of that development and you have to appreciate those signs when they come, regardless of when they come. If they’re enough to earn minutes moving forward, then you take a closer look at the overall impact.

Joe Beguiristain: While the HEAT did a nice job of fighting back in the second half and cutting a 34-point deficit in half, Tuesday night was all about Bam Adebayo. The rookie made an impact on both ends of the floor, as he created shots for himself throughout the game and had an impressive defensive sequence against LeBron James late in the second quarter. Of course, we also were treated to some of Adebayo’s usual thunderous jams.

In short, the 20-year-old’s performance was a textbook example of always being ready. Adebayo hadn’t played in seven of Miami’s last nine games entering the contest, but he looked great in his 18 minutes of action against Cleveland. That just goes to show you how much he’s been working in practice and on off-days.

2: How have the Knicks been playing this season?

Couper: The Knicks don’t have major advantages in the most common team categories outside of offensive rebounding – the Enes Kanter effect – but they are 10-10 with a relatively neutral point differential largely because they’ve hovered around league average on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. They have two three-game winning streaks and two three-game losing streaks, one that they’re currently on in part because of missed games from Kanter and Kristaps Porziņģis.

The trade of Carmelo Anthony to Oklahoma City accomplished a couple things for the Knicks. Firstly, it shifted a chunk of scoring possessions toward Porziņģis as his usage rate has jumped from about 24 percent to 34. Secondly, it injected a rugged, efficient player in Kanter into the rotation and added a floor-spacer in Doug McDermmot to make everyone’s lives a bit easier on offense. Then New York signed Tim Hardaway, via Atlanta, to give them a solid defense-and-shooting pairing on the wing with Courtney Lee. And with draftee Frank Ntilikina adding exciting defense off the bench the Knicks are suddenly as well balanced and well rounded as they’ve been in years.

They do, however, turn the ball over a fair bit, so keep that in mind.

Joe: The Knicks got off to a quick start thanks to the brilliance of Kristaps Porziņģis, but they’ve dropped four of their last six games. That said, New York has played much better overall than in recent years.

While Porziņģis is clearly the team’s best player and unquestioned leader, Tim Hardaway Jr. has been fantastic in his second stint with the Knicks. Case in point: Hardaway Jr. is averaging career-highs across the board with 18.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. In particular, the 25-year-old has really done damage from mid-range, where he is shooting 24-of-48 on the year.

Another guy who has played real well of late is Courtney Lee, who is averaging 16.4 points on 62.7 percent shooting over his last five games. Throughout the season, Lee has mixed things up offensively and has played well off the ball as usual. It’ll be fun to see how Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson approach the matchup with the wily vet.

3: How do you think the HEAT will defend New York’s frontcourt?

Couper: It depends a bit what that frontcourt is. If Kanter plays, he likely starts. If Kanter is out again with back spasms, then Kyle O’Quinn should be the starter. Either way, the decision for Erik Spoelstra is whether to keep Whiteside on the more paint-bound center or to put his length on Porziņģis even though that would pull Whiteside out on the perimeter. The guess would be that Whiteside defends the center and Justise Winslow defends the more perimeter oriented player even though he’ll be giving up a ton of height and length.

You’ll likely remember that Winslow did well defending Karl-Anthony Towns last week and the plan would likely be the same as far as playing aggressive ball denial (especially fronting in the post) and forcing New York’s guard to make a play. Porziņģis is talented enough to beat any coverage and any defender, so the more Miami can keep the ball out of his hands the fewer opportunities Porziņģis will have to make an impact.

Joe: Before I get into this answer, let’s first acknowledge how tough it is to cover Porziņģis. The 7-foot-3 big man can post-up, attack defenses off-the-dribble and off catch-and-shoot opportunities. Simply put, he can do it all.

With Porziņģis being such a threat from the perimeter (he’s shooting 43.8 percent on catch-and-shoot treys this season), I think Justise Winslow will start off on him. If you put Hassan Whiteside on the Latvian, you risk leaving the paint more vulnerable to guys like Hardaway Jr. and Lee.

There’s also a good chance we’ll see James Johnson go head-to-head with “the unicorn” on Wednesday night. Johnson is taller than Winslow and is a bit stronger, so he should be able to provide a different look and make things as tough as possible on Porziņģis.

INJURY UPDATE: Hassan Whiteside (left knee soreness) will not play against the Knicks.

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Highlights:

March 31 – Knicks at HEAT

March 29 – HEAT at Knicks

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won four of six and stand at 10-10.
  • The Knicks have dropped three straight and enter the contest at 10-10.
  • Josh Richardson leads Miami with 1.2 steals per game.
  • Kristaps Porziņģis leads New York in points (27.0) and blocks (2.2) per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 101.3 (25)
  • HEAT Defense: 103.1 (11)
  • Knicks Offense: 104.6 (15)
  • Knicks Defense: 106.1 (20)