The numbers favor the Miami Heat.
Miami, which hosts the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, has the best home record in the Eastern Conference at 16-5. New York is 11-11 on the road.
Additionally, the Heat — who have been out since beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday — are 8-0 this season when given at least two days off.
The Knicks only get one day off after losing 95-93 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. And the Knicks are just 12-19 on an off day.
The worst thing for the Knicks is that they aren’t playing basketball well right now, having lost four of their last five games. And they don’t look like the defensively tough team that made the playoffs in 2021, ending a seven-year playoff drought and earning Tom Thibodeau NBA Coach of the Year honors.
Meanwhile, the Heat have won seven of their last nine games and haven’t lost more than two straight since Nov. 11.
Even blowing almost all of a 26-point lead in Sunday’s win over the Lakers was seen as a positive.
“These are important experiences to have together,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat have adapted to missing players all season. Currently, guards Kyle Lowry (personal reasons) and Tyler Herro (COVID protocol) have missed several games.
But when one player misses, another steps in. For example, Lowry ranks fifth in the NBA in assists (8.3). Without him on Sunday, Jimmy Butler acted as striker, delivering 12 assists – including 10 at half-time – in a brilliant triple-double performance.
The Knicks also have two key players sidelined in starting center Mitchell Robinson and point guard Derrick Rose – perhaps the most important member of their second unit. Both are injured in the right ankle.
Robinson is averaging 8.4 points and 8.3 rebounds, and his field goal percentage is stellar at 77.8%. Rose is fifth on the team in points (12.0) and second in assists (4.0).
New York’s two biggest stars are power forward Julius Randle and winger RJ Barrett.
Randle leads the Knicks in scoring (18.9), rebounds (9.9) and assists (5.1). But his numbers are down from last season, notably his 3-point percentage (from 41.1% to 31.1). His average last year was 24.1. Barrett is second on the Knicks in scoring (17.4), but his 3-point shooting is also down, from 40.1 percent to 35.4.
Also, the off-season acquisitions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier didn’t quite click.
However, one player who was a positive surprise was rookie guard Quentin Grimes, who made 4 of 6 3-pointers in Monday’s loss to Cleveland.
Grimes, a first-round pick, hasn’t been shy about throwing shots, making 40.5% of his 3-pointers this season. In 36 minutes, Grimes is averaging 13.1 points and 1.3 steals per game.
“He’s not perfect,” Thibodeau said. “But he plays hard on every possession.”
Historically, the Knicks-Heat rivalry was once heated, with the teams meeting in the playoffs four years in a row from 1997 to 2000. The Knicks won three of those four series, but the teams haven’t met in the playoffs for a while. decade.
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