By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Heat | American Airlines Arena
When: Sunday | 1:00 PM
Where to Watch: ABC
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (33-44): The Knicks’ playoff chances took a big hit on Friday night, as a last-second loss to the Wizards, coupled with an Atlanta win, dropped them a game behind the Hawks with only five left to play. It’s not insurmountable, but Atlanta has still played two fewer games than the Knicks AND holds the tiebreaker, so we’re approaching “must-win” territory the rest of the way.
Miami (52-23): The Heat have the best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference but are battling the Indiana Pacers for the top seed as the season winds down. Getting home court advantage throughout the playoffs is the goal at this point. They've been without Dwyane Wade for 24 games this season because of various injuries and planned rest and the shooting guard has been dealing with a strained hamstring/achilles recently.
The Numbers Game
J.R. Smith led the Knicks in scoring the last two games, including a 32-point outburst on Friday against Washington. He's been scorching hot lately, averaging 20.5 points on 45 percent shooting from 3-point land over the last eight games.
Matchup to Watch
Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Chris Bosh
The Knicks weren’t able to establish an offensive presence down low against Washington, and they’ll need to fix that against Miami’s aggressive ball-pressure defense. Marcin Gortat and Co. played physical defense on STAT and New York’s guards had trouble making simple post entry passes. Against Miami’s lack of front court size, Stoudemire should have a strength advantage, should the Knicks choose to exploit it. Getting a few close-range looks from the blocks could go a long way toward softening up the perimeter for guys like Smith and Carmelo Anthony to work.
What to Look For
Anthony injured his right shoulder against Brooklyn and clearly struggled to manage the pain during Friday’s loss. He said after the game that at points it, “gave out on him,” so how he responds this afternoon figures to be crucial to the Knicks' chances... Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has been tinkering with his rotations as the playoffs near, but expect to see a slimmed-down Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup and perhaps a dual point guard backcourt of Mario Chalmers and Toney Douglas.