The Miami HEAT face the New York Knicks Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: Despite the win in Cleveland playing out like most of the other games against the Cavaliers, did anything in those final minutes stick out to you?
Couper Moorhead: While you never want to see a lead that had ballooned to 18 shrink to as little as six in the final minutes of a game, it wasn’t particularly concerning. The HEAT were finding plenty of success with their zone defense, as has previously been the case against Cleveland, but the Cavaliers got hot from the perimeter late and that was enough to spur something of a comeback when Miami went flat for a few offensive possessions. It happens.
Joe Beguiristain: Although things got a little too close for comfort down the stretch, the bottom line is Miami got the win. And above all else, Justise Winslow’s stop on Collin Sexton with 30.3 seconds left to play stood out the most to me.
All told, Winslow led the HEAT with 13 contested shots on the night to go along with his team-high 27 points (13 in the third), seven boards, two assists and one block.
“We all knew that he had a heck of a game,” Erik Spoelstra said of Winslow after the victory. “You felt him defensively, and that’s the player he’s supposed to be: to really set the tone for that unit and inspire guys defensively. And then offensively, just playing with great force, great poise, physicality from his position, but being able to do it while still making the right decisions.”
2: Having not seen New York since the opening stretch of the season, is there anything that should still hold true about this matchup?
Couper: We’ve already discussed in this space how much has changed for Miami, from Goran Dragić going down with a knee injury to Justise Winslow playing point guard and all the various rotation changes in between including Dion Waiters returning to the fold. Games from October don’t have much bearing on the current iteration of the HEAT. The same holds true for the Knicks, even if it hasn’t led to the same uptick in efficiency as it has for Miami. Last these teams met, Enes Kanter was a starter, Mario Hezonja was a major part of the rotation and Ron Baker was on the team. Now, none of those things are true. Noah Vonleh has been starting the majority of games in the middle, Kanter and Hezonja don’t play much at all, and for a time Emmanuel Mudiay was the starting point guard until a recent injury brought Frank Ntilikina back into the opening lineup with Courtney Lee also getting a few minutes Friday night.
The Knicks are not particularly efficient from anywhere on the floor. The allow a ton of shots at the rim and tend to leave corner shooters open. They do tend to limit fast-break opportunities thanks to a fairly low turnover rate, but there aren’t many obvious strengths the HEAT will have to be cautious of. David Fizdale’s group is in a transition year, with Kristaps Porziņģis still injured, and most of the numbers show it.
Joe: Not necessarily.
As Coup mentioned above, both teams have changed a lot since that last meeting way back on Oct. 24. Perhaps the lone constant is Tim Hardaway Jr., who leads the Knicks in scoring despite struggling a bit thus far in the month of January.
However, one guy who’s stood out to me from the start is rookie Allonzo Trier. The 23-year-old out of Arizona has a great first step, an arsenal of hesitation moves and a smooth jumper.
All of that has been on display over the past four contests, as Trier is averaging 18.3 points, 4.8 boards and 4.0 assists per game on 60 percent shooting during that span. And while a career-high 31-point explosion against the Rockets on Wednesday might skew those numbers, he’s still been sharp of late.
3: What do we need to know about Kevin Knox?
Couper: Miami didn’t get to see Knox last time around, but he’s well worth their attention despite some rough shooting nights the past couple of weeks. Knox has something similar to the Jayson Tatum offensive package from last season in that he can handle the ball some, can create pull-up jumpers with an easy fluidity and has the burst and athleticism to attack the rim. The playmaking and defense is a little behind the scoring package, as is common for many rookies, but at the very least Knox has the talent to put up 20 points a game a few years down the road. There’s a lot of improvement necessary between here and then given that his 22 percent usage is accompanied by true-shooting below 50 percent, but if you don’t honor the talent with your defense Knox, even at 19 years old, is capable of being the difference between a comfortable win and a possession game down the stretch.
Joe: Simply put, Knox can score in a variety of different ways, whether it’s off the dribble, off the catch or full speed ahead in transition. Now, the 19-year-old has slowed down a bit recently, but he had a very impressive 16-game stretch from Dec. 9 – Jan. 13 where he led New York with 17.8 points per contest on 41.2 percent shooting. (Keep in mind that he averages 12.2 points on 37.0 percent for the season.)
Long story short, Knox is someone that the HEAT need to keep track of since he can catch fire in a hurry. It’ll be fun to see Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Derrick Jones Jr. go to battle with the young man out of Kentucky.
- The HEAT have won three of four against the Knicks, including a 110-87 victory on Oct. 24.
- Miami is 23-24 on the year, while New York enters the contest at 10-37.
- Hassan Whiteside leads the HEAT in rebounds (12.3) and blocks (2.3) per game.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. leads the Knicks in points (19.4) and steals (0.9) per contest.
- Tyler Johnson (Left Calf Soreness) is questionable, while Goran Dragić (Right Knee Surgery), Yante Maten (Sioux Falls Assignment) and Duncan Robinson (Sioux Falls Assignment) remain out.
- HEAT Offense: 106.4 (22)
- HEAT Defense: 106.5 (6)
- Knicks Offense: 105.4 (25)
- Knicks Defense: 113.3 (29)