By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Heat | Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday | 1:00 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks have started rolling, right in time for the biggest game of the season so far. As the Eastern Conference-leading Heat come to the Garden, they'll be greeted by a team that is making progress defensively and regaining the offensive chemistry that carried them to two wins over the defending champs already this year. Over the past three games, the Knicks are holding opponents to 95.3 points per game, a full point less than their season average. While the Sixers and Wizards are not the Miami Heat, the Knicks have had success trapping ball-handlers recently and could carry that over to today.
Miami: It's good that the Knicks are playing well, because the Heat come in having won 13 straight and 18 out of their last 20. LeBron James has gone on some historic streaks of late, including scoring 30 or more points while shooting 60 percent from the field in six straight games. The team follows his lead, but also thrives on the attacking style of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who is one of the most dynamic big men in the league. They lead the league in offesnive efficiency and come in 11th on defense.
Last Time Out
New York: Carmelo Anthony's 30 points and a strong showing from Raymond Felton led the Knicks to a 96-88 win over the Wizards on Friday night.
Miami: In a matchup of the two longest winning streaks in the league, the Heat beat the Grizzlies, 98-91 on Friday night.
The Numbers Game
In the teams' first two meetings, both Knicks wins, New York has outscored Miami by a score of 216 to 176.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Chris Bosh
Chandler and Bosh serve as proof that there is more than one way to do a job. Both play the position we like to define as "center," and yet they carry out its responsibilities in different ways. Bosh, the jumpshooter, takes almost five attempts per game from 16-23 feet and makes them at a 55 percent clip. Chandler, on the other hand, gets about five attempts at the rim per game, where he shoots a robust 72.3 percent. Both are nimble and gifted defenders that can play the pick-and-roll or hit the boards.
What to Look For
Players and coaches from both teams will tell you that what happened in the past has no bearing on this matchup, but after beating the defending champs twice already this season, the Knicks have to feel confident that they can compete with, and beat the Heat whenever they play. On the other hand, both teams are at different places now than they were then. Miami presents challenges with an incredibly athletic lineup that tends to "go small" with Chris Bosh at center. They mix and match with lineups depending on the opponent, but their basic principles of sticky defense and working for high-percentage shots on offense will be what the Knicks have to counter.