It’s a best-of-seven series between two defensive-minded, team-oriented teams. Even better, one side has Tom Thibodeau as head coach, and the other has Jimmy Butler as the main guy, who’s one of Thibs’ favourite ex-players. This should be fun.
Catch the game tomorrow, May 1st, at 1:00 AM.
HOME: New York Knicks (0-0)
Projected starting five:
- Jalen Brunson
- Quentin Grimes (questionable) / Josh Hart
- RJ Barrett
- Julius Randle (questionable) / Obi Toppin
- Mitchell Robinson
Spirits are high in New York City as the Knicks are on the heels of earning the franchise’s first playoff series win in 10 years. They dusted off the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, casually easing past its top-rated defense and All-Star scoring machine Donovan Mitchell.
Here’s one problem, though: All-Star Julius Randle (ankle) and ‘3 and D’ starter Quentin Grimes (shoulder) are still both questionable. The former hurt his ankle in Game 5 vs. the Cavs for the second time in a month (the first was coincidentally against the Heat last April 1st).
Randle has been less than 100% in the postseason, and it will be huge should he be sidelined as he put up 21.0/7.5/4.8 in four meetings with Miami this season. The same goes with Grimes, who had 16.3 points and 3.8 threes per game on 55% shooting (50% from three) in that series.
The Knicks won the regular season head-to-head, 3-1. Like Randle, Jalen Brunson (20.7 PPG) and RJ Barrett (21.3 PPG) also posted over 20 per game in the four outings. They’ll need to produce as such with their star nursing an injury. Key sixth man Immanuel Quickley should be ready to score more too.
Defensively, we should see Josh Hart’s overall hustle in display again, he’ll likely guard Jimmy Butler. Big man Mitchell Robinson will be eyed to hold it down as he has a size advantage on Bam Adebayo.
The Knicks are averaging 99.6 PPG in the 2023 playoffs, and 112.3 PPG against Miami this season.
AWAY: Miami Heat (0-0)
Projected starting five:
- Gabe Vincent
- Max Strus
- Jimmy Butler
- Bam Adebayo
- Kevin Love
The Heat are also coming off an insane series. They eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks in five games for the second time in four years, and once again, it’s while the Bucks were boasting the best record in the league.
Then again, like the Knicks, the Heat are ailing. Their third scorer, Tyler Herro, has a broken hand and is out for the series. The 23-year-old also produced a team-high 23.3 points alongside 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists with a shooting split of 50.7% / 42.9% / 85.7% in four games vs. the Knicks this season.
We’ll see if Jimmy Butler’s ‘playoff mode’ will still be in effect. He went nuclear on Milwaukee in the last two games, dropping a franchise-record 56 points in Game 4 and following it up with 42 more in the series-clinching Game 5. It was quite the show and it pushed his postseason numbers to 37.6 PPG with on a superb 59.7% shooting.
Butler’s help will come in many forms. It will be led by Bam Adebayo (18.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG vs. NYK), but expect it to be a collective effort with Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Kevin Love, and Caleb Martin. It’s a scrappy bunch.
Miami is averaging 109.5 PPG in the 2023 playoffs and 110.8 PPG against the Knicks this season.
Handicap: Either the Knicks fail to cover the spread (-4.5), or the Heat will just take it straight up.Over/Under: The total hits the over (208).