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New York Knicks @ Miami Heat (1:00 PM ET): Preview and Prediction

This afternoon, the Knicks will take on the Eastern Conference-best Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, with tipoff slated for 1:00 p.m. You can find Knicks vs. Heat tickets from FrontRowTickets.com. Here’s what I’ll be watching for:

Playoff push: In the race for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot, the Knicks trail the Atlanta Hawks by two games in the loss column. With only five games remaining on New York’s schedule, Mike Woodson’s group really can’t afford anything worse than a 4-1 finish to the season.

So, though it’s hard to declare a meeting with the two-time defending NBA champions a must-win, the Knicks need this one if they expect to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Melo’s health: During Friday night’s game against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden, Carmelo Anthony appeared to be severely hindered by an injury to his right shoulder. At one point, the Knicks (according to J.R. Smith) even had to take a timeout because the seven-time All-Star was so hampered by the injury. By night’s end, he had gone just 5-of-14 from the field with nine (nine!) turnovers in what was perhaps his worst game as a Knick.

X-rays on the shoulder were negative, and ‘Melo is expected to start today, but how effective he will be won’t be apparent to anyone–including Anthony himself–until play gets underway.

One thing’s for sure: if he’s as bothered by his right shoulder today as he was on Friday, the already-difficult task of beating the Heat will only become that much more daunting.

Smith red-hot: In the Knicks’ two most recent games against Brooklyn and Atlanta, you could argue that J.R. Smith had his two best games of the season.

On Wednesday, Smith scored 24 points after going 9-of-16 from the field and making six of his 12 three-point attempts. He finished just two rebounds and four assists shy of a triple-double.

On Friday, J.R. scored a season-best 32 points, this time connecting on eight three-point attempts and finishing 12-of-23 from the field.

Smith–who struggled mightily for the first four months of the season–played exceptionally well throughout March and could be on his way to an even better month of April. If he can produce another performance on Sunday similar to what he did on Wednesday and Friday, the Knicks should have at least a reasonable chance at pulling off the upset.

Prediction: New York Knicks 102, Miami Heat 95

Somehow, someway, I believe the Knicks will go into Miami and win today. The Heat, like the Knicks, are coming off of a Friday night loss and aren’t playing their best basketball. LeBron James and Company are looking to hold off the Indiana Pacers for homecourt advantage in the East, but I can’t imagine they will be as desperate and hungry today as Carmelo and the Knicks will be. That, to me, will be the difference.

Tags: Carmelo Anthony J.R. Smith New York Knicks

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