The New York Knicks will travel to South Beach to face the Miami Heat tonight with playoff implications on the line.
The New York Knicks (42-31) are in South Florida tonight as they face off against the Miami Heat (39-34) at 7:30 pm EST. If they win against the Heat this evening, they can clinch the tiebreaker which is becoming very important as we approach the end of the regular season and begin to see how the playoffs are shaking out.
In their last matchup, Julius Randle hit an acrobatic three-pointer with just seconds on the clock to win the game for New York. Randle had a career-high 57 points in the Knicks’ last game on Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the Knicks lost the contest. They will seek their 43rd win tonight on a quest for a 50-win season and will look to do so against a Heat team that is still struggling on offense despite a healthy Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and a now healthy Kyle Lowry.
So, what should New York be looking to adjust to pull out another victory in “New York South?”
Win the rebounding battle
It is always tough to matchup against Adebayo in the paint for any team, but the Knicks have the tools necessary to balance out the rebounding and defense he provides. Mitchell Robinson and Isaiah Hartenstein’s minutes will obviously be key to this, but the rebounding prowess provided by Josh Hart and Immanuel Quickley can also help down the stretch if they are unsuccessful.
The Knicks also, overall, perform well on the boards. They rank second in both second-chance points and offensive rebounds and third in rebounds per game in the league. But, Adebayo is still a force to be reckoned with despite Miami ranking third-to-last in rebounds per game. They really need to lock into this strength if they want a bounce back from the last game where it did feel like they were unable to stick themselves in the paint as easily as they usually are with Robinson.
Keep Jimmy Butler Off The Line
Butler averages 8.7 free throw attempts per game, hitting those at a clip of 85.3%. He is notorious for using his strength to get to the rim and will score by any means necessary – either with a clean layup or by getting a call in the middle of an attempt. In the Knicks’ last matchup with the Heat, Miami attempted a whopping 32 free throws. Of those 32, Butler attempted 20. This kept them in the game, especially when New York was unable to both get to the line as frequently or hit their free throws as efficiently as Miami was able to.
Butler is notorious for his propensity to draw fouls, especially when the going gets tough for Miami. New York will really have to be careful with him as they seek to maintain control over the game after such an out-of-control contest against the Wolves where they, too, were able to get plenty of fouls called on New York in big minutes.
The X-Factor in Kyle Lowry
Lowry has been notably absent this season with Miami and has only recently begun to return to their regular rotation. He has been a non-factor when on the floor for the Heat, averaging nine points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists since coming back on Mar. 11 against the Orlando Magic.
Still, he has a propensity for getting fouls called and great court vision and should not be too underestimated just as the Knicks may have underestimated Mike Conley or Taurean Prince in their loss to the Wolves. But, the Knicks’ bench is great on defense, and Lowry should not be thought of as someone they need to be absolutely glued to against Miami this evening despite him not playing in their last game.
The Knicks have no injuries to report ahead of tonight’s game. The Heat have listed Cody Zeller as out for tonight, and Kyle Lowry as questionable, although he is expected to play. Caleb Martin is also questionable.
»Read: Three Keys to the Knicks’ Playoff Push
»Read: Immanuel Quickley is a Worthy Sixth Man of the Year candidate