Knicks (46-26) vs Miami(58-15)
8PM/ET on TNT
First of all, props to J.R. Smith for receiving Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. During the Knicks current eight-game winning streak, Smith has led the charge. He averaged 29.8 points and seven rebounds, while shooting 54% from the floor and 46% from 3. After he missed out on being voted onto the All-Star team, this individual honor is a nice form of revenge. It must also be rewarding for Smith to know that not only has the evolution of his game of driving to the hole been recognized, but it’s also appreciated. Nice.
Moving on…One week ago, Knicks vs Heat was a must-see game as both teams were surging. However, in the past few days, the game has lost some of its luster. The Heat’s impressive 27 game winning streak was ended by the Chicago Bulls and today, the Heat announced that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers would sit out tonight’s game. Without those three, instincts would suggest the Knicks were likely to walk over the Heat, especially based upon their recent play. But history has proven, night in and night out, no NBA team should be taken for granted, especially the reigning NBA champs. In fact, James, Wade, and Chalmers sat out against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, and still, the Heat managed to win the game. Furthermore, according to ESPN.com, the Heat are 6-1 in the past three seasons when only one of its Big Three plays. This suggests that regardless of being the first or the fifteenth player off the Heat’s bench, Heat players have a winner’s mentality and are able to step up when called upon.
Although the Knicks have already beaten the Heat in Miami, it’s typically a tough place to win. All season, the Heat have only dropped three games at home. It’ll be Mike Woodson’s job to keep the Knicks focused on playing the same type of dominant, defensive-minded ball that has spurred them along the past eight games. One way to do that is to remind the Knicks how they whooped the Heat by 20 points while playing without Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in early Decemeber. With just 10 games to go in the regular season, the Knicks can’t afford to slack up. The battle for the second seed rages on between the Pacers and Knicks.
Tyson Chandler is improving, but remains a game-time decision. However, he’s expected to start if he plays.
NY Knicks @ Atlanta Hawks: Wednesday @ 7PM/ET, MSG & ESPN