Thursday, June 13, 2024

NBA Preview: Miami Heat (24-21) at New York Knicks (28-17)

Things have quickly started to spiral for the Miami Heat.

After winning nine of 13 games to bridge December and January, Miami has lost five straight as it gears up for a meeting with the host New York Knicks on Saturday afternoon.

The Heat were most recently embarrassed on Thursday, falling 143-110 to the Boston Celtics in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals.

Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro each had 19 points while Jimmy Butler chipped in 17 for Miami, but Boston shot a stunning 55 percent from 3-point range (22 of 40) and scored at least 30 points in each quarter.

The Miami skid has come without high-energy rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., who has missed the last six games with a groin injury.

Four of the five setbacks during the skid have come against Eastern Conference foes. The Heat are currently out of a guaranteed playoff spot — sitting seventh in the East — but Butler realizes they have plenty of time to turn things around.

New York has climbed to fourth in the Eastern Conference thanks to a five-game winning streak that includes Thursday’s 122-84 drubbing of the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

OG Anunoby poured in a team-high 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting against Denver, while Jalen Brunson supplied 21 points, reserve Quentin Grimes tallied 19 and Julius Randle went for 17 to go along with seven rebounds and eight assists.

Anunoby has provided the Knicks with a boost since he was traded from the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 31, and he has averaged 16.9 points and 4.8 rebounds over the past nine games.

Miami is hoping its newest acquisition soon finds a rhythm, too. The Heat traded for Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier on Tuesday, but he has scored a total of just 16 points on 6-for-21 shooting (28.6 percent) in his first two games with Miami.

Rozier won’t be the only one trying to prove something in the backcourt. Brunson, the Knicks scoring leader at 26.5 points per game, wasn’t named a starter for the Feb. 18 NBA All-Star Game.

Instead, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Damian Lillard and the Indiana Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton will be in the starting five. Brunson also is averaging 6.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game this season.

Lillard sports averages of 25.3 points, 6.8 assists and 4.3 boards. Brunson also has higher shooting splits than Lillard from both the field (47.8 percent to 42.6) and 3-point range (42.4 percent to 34.7).

Saturday marks the second meeting of the season between the teams. The Knicks edged Miami 100-98 back on Nov. 24.

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