Preview: Knicks Head to South Beach to Face a Beat-Up Heat Roster

After stealing a road win last week, can the Knicks keep up the momentum against a former foe?

Photo: Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a lifetime ago that the Heat-Knicks was one of the hottest rivalries in the league. Even without LeBron James, they still had Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with a promising young draft pick in Justise Winslow and the immovable force of Hassan Whiteside at center.

Now, they’re a team that is mostly setting their sights on tanking. (Tickets that used to run you about $90 in the nose bleeds can now be found on Stub Hub for $32. Cold world.)

The Knicks — riding a three-game winning streak — are in South Beach tonight for the first time this season to face a battered Heat that is without Winslow and Dion Waiters. While both teams rose slightly in the Power Rankings this past week, the Knicks are the healthier team and have depth on their side at key positions.

Kristaps Porzingis vs. Hassan Whiteside

This match-up is intriguing because Whiteside is being paid big bucks to be a rim protector and a defensive stopper. And despite Miami’s losses, he’s very good at doing that. Per NBA Stats, he limits opponents to 28.1 points in the paint to Porzingis’ 31.7.

Unlike many of the big men that Whiteside has guarded recently (Mason Plumlee, Rudy Gobert, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic), Porzingis loves the elbow and arc. With the Heat being short-handed, Whiteside is going to have to come out of the paint to guard KP — which leaves the lane open for Derrick Rose to drive at will. This is also the type of match-up that KP loves to see because if he’s the one with the hot hand, he can easily go for 7-for-9 from beyond the arc if his teammates keep giving him looks.

This won’t be an easy assignment for KP on the other side. He’s still showing hints of being able to be pushed out of position and be bullied down on the block. Whiteside catches the ball deep down low and with Goran Dragic feeding him, this is a game where we have to hope KP doesn’t get into foul trouble too early. If Joakim Noah is healthy, it might serve the team and game flow best to have him and Kyle O’Quinn on Whiteside sooner than later. I’d advocate spurts of allowing KP to play the four too.

Photo: via @MiamiHEAT

Other game notes:

  • Former Knicks forward Derrick Williams signed with the Heat this past summer and is only averaging 15.5 minutes per game with nine starts. The Heat are lacking at the four, so we may see Williams get a boost in playing time. We know from last season that he hasn’t lost his speed in getting out in transition. The Knicks can’t seem to stop teams’ fast break so hope we show some improvements in getting back on defense.
  • Let’s hear it for Kuz, guys! He’s passing. He’s driving to the cup. He’s shooting from long distance. In these last couple of games, Mindaugas Kuzminskas confidence is rising quickly. He’s giving me Steve Novak-ian vibes. He doesn’t need to be a good defender. We have Courtney Lee and Justin Holiday for that. But if the Knicks get an early lead, we might get to see more of Kuz early. And let’s face it — the #LosKnicks lineup is lit!

James Woodruff, site writer

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