By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Heat | American Airlines Arena
When: Thursday | 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: TNT
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (21-36): The Knicks take the court in Miami looking to get back on track following a handful of close losses; they've dropped four of five games since the All-Star break, all of which they led at some point in the second half. Monday's loss to the Mavericks was especially heartbreaking, as New York erased an eight point deficit in the last 90 seconds, only to watch Dirk Nowitzki's free throw line jumper bounce around and then drop in at the buzzer. Carmelo Anthony has been on a scoring tear of late -- averaging 37.4 points per game since breaking the All-Star Game record with eight three-pointers -- but the Knicks haven't been able to get the necessary defensive stops to start stacking wins.
Miami (40-14): Starting with a victory over the Knicks back on February 1st, the Heat have won eight of nine coming into tonight. The hot streak includes impressive road wins over the Clippers and Thunder and, most recently, a home win over Chicago without LeBron James (broken nose). The two-time defending MVP practiced yesterday and is expected to return tonight wearing a protective mask similar to the one J.R. Smith has been sporting since suffering his own facial fracture. Miami has the NBA's second best offense and a defense that has climbed to 13th with its recent surge. For all the rest they've given Dwyane Wade (15 games) and other veterans, the Heat trail Indiana by only one game in the loss column.
The Numbers Game
The Possession Battle: When the Knicks (second in the league in fewest turnovers committed) won on January 9th, they turned the ball over only 10 times. When the Heat won in February, New York had 17.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Chris Bosh
Greg Oden made his first start with Miami on Sunday against Chicago, but with James expected to return, expect the Heat to go back to their usual lineup with Bosh at center. Chandler has been locked in recently, averaging 12 points and 15.3 rebounds per game over the last three, but Bosh presents a unique challenge. With his ability to stretch the floor and facilitate offense, Bosh will force Chandler to step away from the rim, making it crucial for Knick guards to limit penetration.
What to Look For
Limiting turnovers is always a key to beating Miami. The Heat don't play fast in terms of pace (ranked 22nd in possessions per game), but they lead the league in converting turnovers into points (19.9 per game). Point guard Mario Chalmers uses his length to disrupt passing lanes and Wade and James are as dangerous as any wing duo in the open floor. Getting back in transition and limiting high-percentage opportunities is crucial for the Knicks...Amar'e Stoudemire earned his first start of the season on Monday against Dallas, moving Smith back to his familiar role off the bench. With Iman Shumpert (sprained knee) and Kenyon Martin (ankle) sidelined, Coach Mike Woodson has shortened his rotation and could continue to lean heavily on his top seven guys again tonight.