Ahead of Super Bowl LV festivities, the Knicks and Heat battle it out in another matinee. New York has won two straight going into today.
The New York Knicks (11-13) are back at it in the early time slot as they welcome the Miami Heat (8-14) to Madison Square Garden.
Both teams are coming off victories—back-to-back in the case of the Knicks. New York is also on the backend of a back-to-back. On Saturday afternoon, the Knicks outlasted a banged-up Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, holding them below 100 points.
Sunday afternoon figures to be a throwback Eastern Conference tilt with not a whole lot of scoring. The Heat rank 25th in points per game, averaging 107.2, but are coming off an offensive explosion on Friday night against Wizards. The Knicks are dead last at 102.7 and failed to score down the stretch of Saturday’s game, resigning to the scoring prowess of Elfrid Payton to help get over the finish line.
No matter how unlike themselves they have looked this season, the Heat are still well-coached with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, so they are always a threat.
Here are some key things to look out for heading into the game.
How Bout Now
There was a lot of (unnecessary) chatter during the bubble that Tyler Herro was better than 2019 draftmate R.J. Barrett. What prompted that chatter is anyone’s guess. The point is, it was a conversation—and one that leaned in Herro’s favor. Herro is a good player in his own right, but that is not the point. The point is how Barrett will approach this game.
Before the season, Barrett mentioned being annoyed about missing the All-Rookie team, which Herro made. Will Barrett use this game as a showcase as to why he was wrongfully left off?
TOO SMOOTH pic.twitter.com/udHuWAmxsj
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) February 6, 2021
Herro is never one to shy away from the moment, and neither is Barrett—possibly giving us quite the pregame show for the Super Bowl.
The difference between Enes Kanter and Bam Adebayo is day and night, so needless to say, Mitchell Robinson will have a much tougher day at the office. Adebayo is in the midst of a breakout and second All-Star season, averaging 20.0 points per night. His offensive bag has extended beyond the paint.
If Nerlens Noel is out once again, Thibodeau could opt to match Robinson’s minutes with Adebayo’s. More Taj Gibson was the answer on Saturday, which is passable against the barren Blazers bigs. Against Adebayo, it could be a recipe for disaster.
The hot topic of discussion last game was the rotation. Thibodeau leaned heavily on his starters, playing Julius Randle, Barrett, Payton, and Robinson for 30-plus minutes. The second unit’s time was scarce, with Burks pulling a majority of the minutes.
Most egregious was Immanuel Quickley’s 13 minutes. Thibodeau not only failed to play his third-best player, he pulled him just when it looked like he was about to explode. It appears he is unwilling to play Quickley and Payton together, meaning it’s one or the other. In the last few games, Thibodeau has chosen Payton.
Other points of interest are Obi Toppin and Kevin Knox. One plays spot minutes that prevent him from finding a groove, the other fell out of the rotation following a few bad games. If Thibodeau is giving equal treatment, then Austin Rivers should get himself comfortable on the bench.
- The Knicks are 5-5 at MSG, and the Heat are 2-7 on the road. By the law of numbers, the Knicks should have a leg up.
- Frank Ntilikina has not appeared in a game since his knee sprain. There should be some tired legs ahead of him in the rotation, so he and Knox could find some spot minutes depending on how the game goes. Ntilikina has been mentioned in trade rumors just last night, per SNY’s Ian Begley. The Athletic is reporting Ntilikina could be dealt in a trade for Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose.