Heat Look to Get Back on Track vs. Knicks


Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

This matchup should be taking place at an amusement park as both teams have been going through rollercoaster seasons.

Miami (32-13) braves the Super Bowl throngs as they travel to the “basketball Mecca” to face the New York Knicks (19-27). And while the Heat struggles to play consistently at a championship level, the Knicks have attempted to field a healthy team that can contend for a playoff spot.

New York has suffered through nagging injuries, bloated expectations and J.R. Smith, all under the brightest of lights. 2014 started off well, with the Knicks winning six of their first 7 games, including a 102-92 beating over Miami on January 9. Then, New York lost five in a row until Carmelo Anthony decided he didn’t care who was out there on the floor with him; he was determined to shoot. Anthony has averaged nearly 38 points per game during New York’s latest four-game win streak, including a 62-point outburst against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Tyson Chandler anchors the middle for the Knicks, and Iman Shumpert and Raymond Felton support Anthony as capable scorers that can connect from deep. Heat fans should look for the continued growth of Tim Hardaway, Jr., a pleasant surprise for the New York faithful that, according to Dwyane Wade, has “a very good chance in this league to be good for multiple years.”

The Heat look to bounce back after a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, an anticlimactic matchup that saw the Heat race out to an 18-point lead and then never get closer than 10 points in the second half.

The telecast of this game begins at 8:30 P.M. on ESPN from Madison Square Garden. Check back with AllUCanHeat for a recap after the game.

The Big Three Questions for the Game:

Is LeBron James Set For an Offensive Explosion?

I hope not. AUCH’s Wes Goldberg predicted James would top Anthony’s 62-point mark, a possibility hard to envision given LeBron’s primary role as a facilitator. But there is no denying that LBJ loves the glittering lights at “The Garden,” sometimes playing selfish isolation basketball during the Heat’s recent losing visit. In honor of the newly-retired NBA Commissioner David Stern, a shot-for-shot duel between two of the league’s best stars would definitely be entertaining. But, in my opinion, this style of play often results in losses. Let Anthony get his points, LeBron. Just bring back a victory.

Who is an X-Factor for New York?

J.R. Smith. He didn’t play in the last matchup, riding the pine due to his latest bout of “conduct detrimental to the team.” But this gifted scorer (and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year) can give the Heat fits when he’s focused. The problem is getting him to be focused.

Who is an X-Factor for Miami?

I think it’s Wade. He played 32 minutes in the loss to the Thunder, scoring 15 points. Those aren’t the type of numbers Heat fans expect from Wade. While James is clearly the unquestioned statistical leader of the Heat, a big night from Dwyane will definitely help lead Miami to victory.