The New York Knicks are 3-1 in 2014 and appear close to turning a corner. Tonight they take on the Miami Heat, whom the Knicks consider a rival of sorts. The Knicks have held up to a few tests so far in the new year, and tonight presents another. To preview the game, some of the Buckets Over Broadway team chipped in to discuss the showdown.
1.) How important is this game to the Knicks?
Scott Davis (@WScottDavis): Despite being several games out of a playoff spot, this game does seem strangely important to the Knicks. The Miami Heat are no doubt the Knicks’ superiors, but after two months of struggles this season, a win tonight would give the Knicks some real momentum. We’re now past the point of moral victories for New York….
Matt Shetler (@buccos12): When you are 12-22, every game is important, but this would take on more importance if the Knicks were contending. That being said, a win vs. the Heat would do a lot for the Knicks confidence.
Ankit Mehra (@amehra11): This game will have a massive impact for the Knicks. It will show them if they can keep up with the big dogs of the East, and it will show fans whether or not the recent hot streak was a sign of something to come. The Knicks need a win to keep pace and this game is the perfect chance to make a statement as well.
Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan): This game is huge. The Knicks have a ton of distractions surrounding this team and franchise, but winning can put those thoughts to rest — at least for the time being. Winning at home –where the Knicks have uncharacteristically struggled this year — would give the MSG crowd something to cheer about. If they’re going to turn things around, now is the time. The Knicks play 10 of their next 13 games at home, so this game could be a momentum starter.
2.) Can the Knicks actually compete with the Heat when healthy, as Mike Woodson suggested?
Davis: I don’t think Woodson overstretched his boundaries by saying the Knicks can “compete” with the Heat… as long as he meant for one game. In the bigger picture, like for the season, no, the Knicks cannot. But the Knicks mostly retained the same core players from last season’s team that beat Miami 3-1 in the season series, so sure — the Knicks can compete on a game basis.
Shetler: Sure they can, if they execute and show the willingness to defend. Unfortunately, they haven’t shown a consistent effort to do either this season. I don’t expect much out of them in this game, but they have surprised me before.
Mehra: Can the Knicks compete… I’m scared to say this, but I think they can win. Carmelo Anthony is getting hot, and everything is clicking with Iman Shumpert. Prediction: Knicks 98-93 Heat.
Klein: The Heat are always tough, and in my book, until the they are dethroned, they’re still the team to beat in the East. The Knicks have a long history with Miami and this game should be no different that the rest — a hard nosed, tough game. I think New York can make it a game, and even win, but not having Tyson Chandler will hurt. However, Chalmers and Battier are out for Miami, too, so that helps as well.
3.) Will Mike Woodson discipline J.R. Smith for his recent actions, like his $50,000 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct?
Davis: For some strange reason, I want to give Woodson the benefit of the doubt. He preaches accountability to almost every player except J.R., but I have a feeling he was legitimately pissed off by Smith’s fine. Will that translate to discipline? I don’t know. Maybe he brings a few other players off the bench before Smith tonight.
Shetler: Not a chance. He should, but Woody won’t take any action against his boy. Expect him to get 30-34 minutes and struggle.
Mehra: J.R. is like a son to Woodson, even though every other basketball team would discipline, or even release a player who acts like J.R., but not with the Knicks. The furthest the Knicks are willing to go is threatening him with the trade rumors. But honestly, who could they get back for J.R.? Chris Smith?
Klein: Unfortunately, I don’t think Woodson will discipline JR. Just like Ankit said, Woodson has a soft spot in his heart for Smith. At this point there can’t be a single Knicks fan who doesn’t want to tear JR to shreds. The guy is making a joke of himself, the team and the league. He needs to be off this team and away from the fans, MSG, etc. That is the only way I think things change with him.