• Miami HEAT at New York Knicks Game Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler The Miami HEAT face the New York Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The HEAT fell to the Knicks 114-103 in their last meeting on December 6. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: How did Miami pull out such a thrilling victory in Detroit? Couper Moorhead: By staying true to what they’ve done all season. This was far from Miami’s best game of the season as the team only scored 42 points in the second half in part due to struggles against Detroit’s aggressive pick-and-roll coverage and switching. But in the end this game, essentially a playoff game for both teams, wasn’t about schemes or coverages. It came down to Miami scrapping and fighting in the final minute, forcing a huge jump ball down one and every player going after a late James Johnson miss until the final second because it was the last hand that touched the ball, Hassan Whiteside’s left, that was the deciding play. It was as representative a sequence for Miami’s season as any. This might not be the best team on the floor every night, but they almost always play as hard as a team can possibly be expected to play. That effort alone saved the game. Joe Beguiristain: Sheer will and determination. While things weren’t perfect for Miami in the fourth quarter, the team gutted out a very important victory. In particular, James Johnson scored seven points in the final period, including a massive slam over Marcus Morris, and forced a jump ball with 14.7 seconds left to give the HEAT their final possession of the contest. Of course, in that final possession, Hassan Whiteside came through with the game-winning tip-in for Miami. Up until that point, the HEAT had clamped down on the defensive end and forced the Pistons to shoot just 39.7 percent from the field through three quarters. Although that changed in the fourth, Miami imposed its will for a majority of the game. In all, Tuesday night was the kind of grind-it-out win we’ve come to expect from the HEAT. As I’ve stated numerous times before, Miami’s effort never wavers regardless of the circumstances. That’s a big reason why the team has gone 25-8 since January 17.   2: What does the playoff picture look like for the HEAT now and how will Wednesday night’s game against the Knicks affect it? Couper: The reason the win in Detroit was so important wasn’t just because it fends off the Pistons in the standings but because it allowed Miami to draw even in the season series. If Detroit and Miami were to tie now the tiebreaker would go to the conference record, where the Heat hold a four-game advantage in the loss column – not to mention if there’s a multi-team tie (as we saw last season), that extra head-to-head win factors in. This was worth more than just a single victory. Now Miami sits at No. 8 with a one-game lead over the Bulls, a two and a half game lead over Detroit and trailing the Indiana Pacers by just a game for No. 7.  There’s still a relatively long way to go and Chicago looms, but the HEAT are in a much better position today than they were two days ago. Joe: The HEAT’s win over the Pistons put them two and a half games up on Detroit and one game ahead of the Bulls for the eighth seed. As Coup mentioned above, the tiebreaker with the Pistons will now come to conference record since the season series is tied at 2-2. In terms of Chicago, however, the Bulls own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami. While the eighth seed is what the HEAT have been fighting for more often than not, seeds five through seven are still very much in play. The HEAT are just two back of No. 5 Atlanta and No. 6 Milwaukee (both teams are 38-36) and one game behind No. 7 Indiana, which lost to Minnesota on Tuesday. In other words, we likely won’t know the exact playoff seeding until the final game of the regular season.  3: What do we need to know about the Knicks right now? Couper: The Knicks have lost eight of their last 10 games and are just one-game ahead of the Orlando Magic in the conference standings – significant because Orlando was officially eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night. As for the rest there’s only so much we can say at the moment as it is currently unclear, as of this writing, how many of the Knicks regulars (including Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis) will play Wednesday. Joe: Coup pretty much hit the nail on the head. Outside of a convincing victory over the Pistons on Monday, the Knicks have been struggling as of late. In fact, New York has the seventh-worst net rating (minus-6.6) in the league over the past ten games. Otherwise, it’s hard to really get a grasp on this particular matchup with the status of a lot of key players for the Knicks up in the air. That said, Willy Hernangomez has played quite well over his last two games. After scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against San Antonio on Saturday, the Spaniard tallied 15 points and five boards against Detroit. As a whole, Hernangomez is a major threat in the pick-and-roll game. We’ll see how things play out on Wednesday night. Highlights: December 6-Knicks at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have dropped two of three and are 36-38. The Knicks have dropped eight of ten and stand at 28-46 on the year. Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (20.1) and assists (5.9) per game. Carmelo Anthony leads New York in scoring at 22.7 points per contest.   Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 104.9 (18) HEAT Defense: 104.1 (5) Knicks Offense: 104.9 (17) Knicks Defense: 108.6 (26)  

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