After almost choking in the play-in tournament, the Miami Heat are now up 3-1 in the second round, one win away from a second-straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Can they clinch it on the road in New York’s rowdy crowd?
Catch the game tomorrow at 7:30 AM, Manila time.
HOME: New York Knicks (1-3)
Projected starting five:
- Jalen Brunson
- RJ Barrett
- Josh Hart
- Julius Randle
- Mitchell Robinson
The Knicks are on the brink of elimination because they have simply been outworked by the Heat. There’s some room to recover, and it’s nice that they’re back at home, but it’s an uphill battle.
While Julius Randle is averaging his usual 11.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in the series, it’s coupled with an underwhelming 18.3 points on 43.5% shooting. He’s also mostly lethargic on both ends. Such energy cancels out the solid effort from the other guys, particularly Jalen Brunson (26.8 PPG) and RJ Barrett (22.0 PPG), who are both scoring nicely in the series. Josh Hart’s (10.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG) hustle is ultimately being offset as well.
Aside from Randle, other sources of offense are also struggling. Quentin Grimes and sixth man Immanuel Quickley are combining for 15 PPG on 36.7% shooting in the four games so far.
Lastly, the rebounding has to be better. They were -6 in offensive boards (7 to 1) in the fourth quarter of Game 4, which was close until the last minute, and it definitely changed the flow of the game.
The Knicks are scoring 99.8 PPG in the series.
AWAY: Miami Heat (3-1)
Projected starting five:
- Gabe Vincent
- Max Strus
- Jimmy Butler
- Bam Adebayo
- Kevin Love
The Heat are in the zone, far from the shaky performance in the play-in and the whirlwind of a regular season they just had. It’s right on brand with Bill Simmons’s now-popular take on the team. Then again, they have the spooky 3-1 lead, and we all know it’s not safe to be on either side anymore.
Nevertheless, all eyes are on Jimmy Butler right now. He’s averaging an all-around 26.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game in the series, and has led the Heat in scoring in all of the nine games he’s played this postseason. Note that he’s doing a ton of carrying while nursing an ankle injury and key scorer Tyler Herro out. He needs one more push to advance again.
What works well for Butler is he’s being backed by a variety of guys. Bam Adebayo is right there with him, while Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and Kevin Love are taking turns as the third man. Strus, in particular, has 17.3 PPG on 51% shooting in his last three.
Beyond all that, though, rebounding will also be the key. The Heat were pounded on the boards in Game 2, 50-34, but made the necessary adjustments and have looked better since.
The Heat are scoring 106.8 PPG in the series.
Handicap: The Knicks (-4) fail to cover the spread.
Over/Under: The total goes over 209.