The Knicks need to continue their momentum by defeating the Heat. Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels, Flickr.com
The New York Knicks are riding an eight-game winning streak, the best in the NBA. The Miami Heat are the only team in the NBA who have won nine of their last 10 games. It seems like a monumental matchup between two Eastern Conference heavyweights who want to prove their supremacy. Things are not as they seem.
This matchup means next to nothing for the Heat (58-15). In fact, as far as the standings and seedings are concerned, it means exactly nothing to them.
For the Knicks (46-26), it’s a whole different story. The Knicks are currently the No. 3 seed in the East by just .001 percentage points, behind the Indiana Pacers. The potential meeting between the Knicks and Pacers in the second round of the playoffs could very well be settled by home-court advantage.
It seems like a decade ago that the Knicks dismantled the Heat 104-84 at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Nov. 2 (see video below). Then, on Thursday, Dec. 6, the Knicks traveled to Miami and crushed them 112-92. That loss marks one of only three all season at home for the Heat. Most recently, the Heat won at the Garden 99-93 on Sunday, Mar. 3.
This game means so much for the Knicks, not just because they will win the season series and not because they want to move past the Pacers. This game means so much because the Knicks need to prove to themselves and to the Heat that they can travel to the American Airlines Arena and win.
Neither team is all that healthy. For the Knicks, Tyson Chandler is a game-time decision. Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigoni are both listed as day-to-day. On the Heat side, Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Udonis Haslem are all day-to-day.
From a psychological standpoint, it makes sense for the Heat to rest James and Wade again. After all, they were able to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 88-86 in Texas on Sunday night without them.
The Knicks want to build confidence and chemistry moving towards the playoffs. If they beat a Heat team with three of their best four players sitting, it doesn’t accomplish those goals. If they lose to that Heat team, it’s a complete disaster and will make them think twice about themselves.
It’s tough to say a regular-season game is the biggest of the season, but for the Knicks this one is it. If the Heat play their stars, the Knicks will have their all-important litmus test. If they rest, the Knicks will have to obliterate, not just beat, the Heat.
Regardless of who plays, the Knicks need to make a statement in Miami. This game won’t make or break their regular season, but it will either build or destroy any momentum and confidence they have as it relates to defeating the mighty defending champs.