The Knicks host the Miami Heat at home for another matchup with David Fizdale’s former squad.
The Knicks’ misfortunes continue, as they extended their losing streak to eight games after a loss to intracity rival Brooklyn on Friday night. Now, the Knicks will turn their attention to the Miami Heat, who bested them earlier this season.
This will be the teams’ first meeting since the second week of the NBA regular season. Miami won in comfortable fashion, 110-87, spoiling head coach David Fizdale’s return to South Beach. Since then, Miami (23-24) has put itself in the hunt for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Heat have a few teams in hot pursuit, but there is still plenty of basketball action left.
As for the Knicks (10-37), Fizdale’s first year has been marked by turbulence, but they’ve gone an ugly 9-33 since that Oct. 24 meeting. New York will look to even up the regular season series on Sunday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Learning from the Last Time Out
When these two teams met in October, the Knicks had zero answers for Hassan Whiteside in the paint and the marksmanship of Josh Richardson. Whiteside set the tone with a 22-point, 14-rebound double-double down low, while Richardson led Miami’s three-point artillery with a 5-for-6 showing from deep. Richardson accounted for over a third of the Heat’s long-range barrage, as Miami sank 13-of-29 attempts (44.8 percent) from beyond the arc, and the Knicks had no option but to roll with the punches.
Whiteside and Richardson continue to be prominent pieces for the Heat today. Richardson currently leads the Heat in scoring, averaging 17.6 points per game. Meanwhile, Whiteside averages a double-double, with 12.6 points and 12.3 rebounds.
The Knicks proved they were able to compete with the Heat early in the game, and this was during their heavy experimentation phase.
Although their three-point defense has been up-and-down, they’ll look to improve upon that this time around, while hoping to slow down these two. The Knicks looked helpless, as Miami heated up from the perimeter and maintain a balanced attack as Whiteside bullied New York in the paint. As productive as Whiteside and Richardson have been for the Heat, the landscape around them has changed up a bit.
Heat Check: Who’s Hot, and Who’s Not?
Since that October meeting, there have been some changes to the Heat’s dynamic. Goran Dragic and Rodney McGruder have faded out of the picture. Dragic (knee) at least has an excuse and is recovering from arthroscopic surgery that will keep him sidelined for at least another month. He was producing at a solid rate while being in-and-out with recurring knee issues, before finally being indefinitely sidelined in early December.
McGruder, who was amidst a hot start when he first faced the Knicks, no longer looks like he is taking a leap forward. He had 19 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting performance, while also logging six boards and five assists, against the Knicks on Oct. 24. Since then, he’s cooled off from that promising early-season showing and has struggled. He’s scored zero points in each of the last four games.
However, Derrick Jones Jr. and Justise Winslow are on the upward trend for the Heat. Jones is growing into a reliable player off the bench, adding another solid option to a still competitive and productive Dwyane Wade. Jones’ play has improved since averaging 3.0 points per game in the month of December, and he has shown to be a spark plug when he’s able to get going. He’s made the most of big minutes. This month, given more than 20 minutes a game, he averages just under 15 points and seven boards.
As for Winslow, the former lottery pick from the 2015 NBA Draft, he’s played his way into the starting lineup with his growing all-around play. Through October and November, he averaged less than 10.0 points per game and shot below 35 percent on the floor. Since December, he’s averaging around 14 points per game, along with about five boards and assists, while shooting over 45 percent overall and a respectable 40 percent from deep.
In the Zo(ne)
The Knicks’ losing streak wasn’t pretty, but Allonzo Trier has been a bright spot. Over the last week and a half, Trier has been a productive weapon for the Knicks. He recently enjoyed a career-high 31-point performance against the Houston Rockets—one that was probably overshadowed by James Harden’s 61 points—but one that was not overlooked by the Knicks’ faithful.
21 points from Trier. I think he’s back. pic.twitter.com/rsPsZTjMEd— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 24, 2019
Eyes are on Trier to continue to build off of his play as of late. It was nice to see him get going again, especially since he’s been relatively quiet since Christmastime.
Plus/minus ratings might not be everything, but it’s a great sign when he’s had a team-high +21 rating over the last four games, while a majority of the team dwells in the negatives.