• New York Knicks at Miami HEAT Game Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the New York Knicks Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Knicks 98-81 in their last meeting on February 28. 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: Despite the end result, did Miami continue any positive trends from the three-game road trip as they took on Portland? Couper Moorhead: Until the road trip and long minutes appeared to take a toll of the team down the stretch, Miami’s offense had continued to be full of energy and movement as Goran Dragic led the way through drive after drive after drive into the paint. And when Dragic didn’t have the ball in his hands, it was Josh McRoberts running the point for stretches or Hassan Whiteside finding deep position in the paint (where he was incredibly efficient) or Wayne Ellington running off screens. The offense wasn’t perfect, but it kept things moving and all the little things the HEAT have added to their scoring diet in the past week should help them build a more complete approach as players return from injury. The defense, however, was also significantly stronger against Portland. That was partially due to Utah being red-hot from the perimeter, but the HEAT guards did very well chasing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum around screens so they wouldn’t have enough air space for a comfortable jumper. A lot of that came from Rodney McGruder, who is proving himself to be a most dependable defensive option. Joe Beguiristain: While Miami ultimately fell short in Portland, the team did continue to show improvement on both sides of the ball. Perhaps most impressive was how the HEAT limited Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to a combined 13-of-37 shooting from the field. In particular, Rodney McGruder, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragić did a great job on both guys for a majority of the contest. As a whole, Miami held Portland to just 40.4 percent shooting. On the flip side of the ball, the two-man game between Dragić and Hassan Whiteside continued to be extremely effective. The Slovenian attacked the basket and knocked down jumpers thanks to good screens from Whiteside, while the big fella did a little bit of everything against Portland’s bigs. In short, both guys emptied the tank and gave it all they had in a valiant effort against the Trail Blazers. 

    2: How has New York’s offseason moves affected their team so far? Couper: After adding Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in the offseason, the Knicks are scoring over 108 points per 100 possessions with either of them on the floor and with another acquisition in Courtney Lee shooting well over 40 percent from three they’ve been an above-average offense overall so far. But additions can also come from internal development as Kristaps Porzingis has entered this season as a significantly improved offensive player, scoring 20 points per game on about the same number of possessions he used during his rookie season when he averaged 14. This is as dynamic an offense as the Knicks have had since their playoff runs a few seasons ago. They’re also 11-9 based on a defense that currently ranks below average, but that doesn’t take away from this being one of the tougher teams to gameplan for in the league these days. Joe: The Knicks have improved on the offensive end thus far thanks to the additions of Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings. While Jennings provides a spark off the bench for New York, both Rose and Lee have been producing well in the staring lineup. In the case of Rose, the 28-year-old is averaging 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game on 46.8 percent shooting in his last ten. He’s also been getting to the free throw line at a higher rate during that time frame. We all know what Rose is capable of when healthy, and he seems to be in a good place right now. Thanks in part to the playmaking point guard, the Knicks have won three straight and are two games over .500 for the first time this season. 3: How do you think Miami will defensively handle New York’s leading scorers in Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis? Couper: To answer this we must first discuss Miami’s injury situation. James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters have all been ruled out for the game. Josh Richardson and Luke Babbitt are both doubtful. So Miami will be shorthanded in general but could also be missing a chunk of its non-center size, meaning anyone other than Derrick Williams could potentially be giving up both inches and pounds to the 6-foot-8 Anthony. Miami still has a ton of gritty defenders, but if Anthony has a size advantage in the post it will take a disciplined array of help defenders to keep him away from the rim. As for Porzingis, you could see some cross-matching between him and Whiteside. Miami could want Whiteside to get Porzingis switched on to him so Whiteside can get good position in the post, but by the same token asking Whiteside to chase the Knicks’ high-volume shooter feet beyond the three-point line is quite the task for a full game. The guess would be that Whiteside starts the game defending Noah or Kyle O’Quinn, depending on who is in the lineup, and then we see the Whiteside-Porzingis matchup later in the game when New York goes small with Anthony at the four spot. Joe: As Coup mentioned above, things will be tough without James Johnson, Justise Winslow or Dion Waiters. Last season, we were treated to great matchups between Winslow and Carmelo Anthony, but unfortunately that won’t be the case this time around. Even though McGruder is giving up a bunch of size, perhaps we’ll see him defending Anthony on the perimeter at certain points in the game. Otherwise, we could see Derrick Williams or Josh McRoberts on Anthony from time to time. Kristaps Porzingis, meanwhile, has really taken a leap forward in his sophomore season. The 21-year-old has upped his production in nearly every facet, with the biggest jumps coming in points per game and field goal percentage. McRoberts will likely start on the talented big unless Miami wants to cross-match like Coup stated above. Regardless of who guards Porzingis, they will have to give him no space on the perimeter since nearly 43 percent of his shots come off catch-and-shoot opportunities. Again, it’ll be tough, but we’ll see how it all pans out on Tuesday night.  Highlights: February 28-HEAT at Knicks January 6-Knicks at HEAT Game Notes: The HEAT have won two of three and are 7-13. The Knicks have won three straight and stand at 11-9. Hassan Whiteside leads Miami in points (17.8), rebounds (14.9) and blocks (2.6) per game. Carmelo Anthony leads New York in scoring at 22.5 points per contest.   Efficiencies (Rank): HEAT Offense: 100.2 (24) HEAT Defense: 102.1 (11) Knicks Offense: 104.4 (13) Knicks Defense: 107.2 (27)

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