After a Game 1 meltdown, the Knicks will try to even up their second-round series against the Heat at Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks dropped a close one to the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon, allowing them to steal a home game in what already looks to be a difficult matchup for their second round of playoff basketball this season. While RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson shined in the first half, they along with the rest of the Knicks team fizzled out thanks to some key adjustments from Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra that kept them off balance in the paint and revealed just how bad their three-point shooting can be at times.
Ahead of tonight’s matchup, it’s unclear whether three key players will even suit up: Jimmy Butler for Miami, and Brunson and Julius Randle for the Knicks. Nonetheless, there’s a game to play. Here are a few keys to the contest as New York looks to get back on track early in this round:
Make your shots
The Knicks shot a rancid 21% from three-point range on Sunday, below their own regular season average and what many feel was an outlier given how many open looks they were getting from the Heat. Obi Toppin took a whopping 11 three-point shots, making four and looking like the only sniper the team had.
This is obviously not what the team needs or wants – after all, Toppin is deadliest in the post and in transition – but they cannot have another shooting night like they did on Sunday if the Heat are repeatedly daring them to make their shots again. New York has to quickly figure out what’s gone wrong for them when it comes to their shooting from three-point range if they want to try and get some sort of edge over the paint-packing Miami defense.
Earth to Immanuel Quickley
Despite showing major signs of life in their Game 5, series-clinching win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Round 1, Immanuel Quickley looked out of sorts yet again in Game 1 on Sunday afternoon. He finished up with an uncharacteristic nine points, two rebounds and one assist, a far cry from the explosive and momentum-swinging type of player on offense he proved himself to be all regular season.
It just looks like Quickley has lost the confidence with his pull-up shooting and driving that he had successfully found prior to the postseason. Whether it be due to much tighter defenses being presented to him or the weight of the playoffs themselves starting to pester him, we can’t be sure. But all we can hope for is some semblance of regular-season, near-Sixth Man of the Year Quickley this evening, and far more than just nine shot attempts and one assist off the bench.
Mitchell Robinson is being challenged
Robinson completely dominated the two bigs that Cleveland threw his way, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, because he was able to box them out with ease. He and Isaiah Hartenstein swung lots of 50/50 balls and possessions into the Knicks’ favor, which has been their forte all season long. On Sunday, Bam Adebayo realized this and executed an excellent game where he boxed Robinson out with force all game long. He helped the Heat to get many offensive rebounds — specifically, those grabbed by Butler, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus — and put together a great game on the boards that the box score does not reflect.
A return by Randle could help Robinson here immensely. Toppin is a solid rebounder as he can fly in and disrupt a defender’s ability to grab an easy board, but he does not have the same strength that Randle has with being able to box out someone like Adebayo in the post. With the combined forces of him and Robinson, it could present a challenge to Adebayo’s game plan for rebounding and preventing second-chance opportunities for the Knicks.
As mentioned, Butler is questionable for tonight after rolling his ankle late in the game on Sunday afternoon. Brunson is listed as yesterday with a sore ankle, while Randle is still questionable with a sprained ankle that was re-injured in the Cleveland series. Jericho Sims, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo remain out.
The game tips off at 7:30 pm on TNT.