With stats on their side, Heat host struggling Knicks

Field Level Media

January 25, 2022 at 10:17 pm.

The numbers favor the Miami Heat.

Miami, which plays host to 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.

In addition, the Heat — who have been off since beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday — are 8-0 this season when getting at least two days of rest.

The Knicks are only getting one day of rest after losing 95-93 at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. And the Knicks are just 12-19 on one day of rest.

What’s worse for the Knicks is that they are not playing good basketball at the moment, having lost four of their last five games. And they do not resemble the defensively-tough team that made the playoffs in 2021, ending a seven-year postseason drought and winning Tom Thibodeau NBA Coach of the Year honors.

Meanwhile, the Heat have won seven of their past nine games, and they haven’t lost more than two straight games since Nov. 11.

Even blowing nearly all of a 26-point lead in the win over the Lakers on Sunday was seen as a positive.

“Those are important experiences to go through together,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Heat have adjusted to missing players all season. Currently, it’s guards Kyle Lowry (personal reasons) and Tyler Herro (COVID protocol) who have missed multiple games.

But when one player is missing, another one steps up. For example, Lowry ranks fifth in the NBA in assists (8.3). Without him on Sunday, Jimmy Butler played the point-forward role, dishing 12 assists — including 10 by halftime — 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 have right-ankle injuries.

Robinson is averaging 8.4 points and 8.3 rebounds, and his field-goal percentage is stellar at 77.8 percent. Rose is fifth on the team in scoring (12.0) and second in assists (4.0).

New York’s two biggest stars are power forward Julius Randle and wing 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, most notably his 3-point percentage (from 41.1 percent to 31.1). His scoring 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.

In addition, the offseason acquisitions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier have not fully clicked.

However, one player who has been a positive surprise is rookie guard Quentin Grimes, who made 4 of 6 3-pointers in Monday’s loss to Cleveland.

Grimes, a first-round pick, has not been bashful putting up shots, making 40.5 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Per 36 minutes, Grimes is averaging 13.1 points and 1.3 steals a game.

“He’s not perfect,” Thibodeau said. “But he plays hard on every possession.”

Historically, the Knicks-Heat rivalry was once sizzling, 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 postseason in a decade.