by Jonah Ballow
NYKnicks.com
@jonahballow

7:30 PM ET | Madison Square Garden
TV:  MSG Network
Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

1.  The Knicks valiant effort down the stretch fell just short in a 103-91 defeat to the Blazers on Monday night.  Late in the contest, New York compiled a 12-0 run and outscored Portland 27-13 in the fourth quarter but to no avail as the road team escaped with the victory.  Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 22 points and seven boards in 33 minutes of action.  On the other side of the floor, Damian Lillard dropped a game-high 32 points and Pat Connaughton added 17. 

2.  Enes Kanter missed his third straight game on Monday night due to back spasms.  The big man returned to action on Tuesday at MSG Training Center for the team’s practice session.  Head coach Jeff Hornacek said Kanter is probable to play tonight against Miami.  Kanter on the floor would be a welcome sight for the orange and blue.  He’s the Knicks leader in field goal percentage, rebounds, and third in scoring at 13.6 points per game.  From a rebounding perspective, Kanter is a key component to New York’s attack on the offensive glass.  He ranks No. 5 in offensive rebounds per game in the NBA and helped the Knicks earn the second spot in second chance points.

3.  Joakim Noah made his 2017-18 debut on Monday night.  The 7-footer checked-in during the second quarter where he played nearly three minutes and finished with two points, two rebounds, and a blocked shot.  Today, Noah and Damyean Dotson were assigned to the Westchester Knicks.  Both players will play in the G-League game and are expected return to the team for tonight’s contest against Miami. 

4.  Last season, the Heat gained some real momentum after a slow 11-30 start.  Miami finished with a 30-11 mark and 41-41 overall but just outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.  In large part, the Heat return the same group as a season ago expect for the addition of free agent Kelly Olynyk and draft pick Bam Adebayo.  Justise Winslow is also back for Miami after a rookie season in which he only suited up for 18 games.

5.  The Heat won three straight games before last night’s 108-97 defeat to the Cavaliers in Cleveland.  In two of those three wins, Miami toppled the East’s best team, the Boston Celtics and a team on the rise, the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Goran Dragic is the straw that stirs Miami’s drink as he leads the team in points per game (18.6) and assists (4.6).  Hassan Whiteside is a force in the paint and now that he’s back from injury, the center is averaging 12.7 boards and 1.6 blocks per outing.  At 10-10 this season, the Heat is a fairly average team across the board but the team does rank No. 5 in the NBA in 3-point attempts.