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After dispatching their higher-seeded opponents, the New York Knicks and Miami Heat enter this Eastern Conference Semi-Final series. The New York Knicks overcame the fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers by dominating their highly touted frontcourt. And the Miami Heat defeated the top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks in just five games, sending two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo packing. Game 1 between the Knicks and Heat projects to be an old-school, grind-it-out series!
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The Miami Heat earned their place in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals but upsetting the Milwaukee Bucks in the First Round. Miami's win was the proverbial "gentleman's sweep," where they won the series in just five games. In their upcoming Second Round series, the Heat must contest with a Knicks team that shares similar qualities.
But first, let's recap the Heat's First Round performance. Despite scoring just 109.5 points per game (30th in the NBA) on 46.0% from the field (26th in the NBA) through the regular season, Miami averaged 124.0 points on 51.9% from the field and 45.0% from three against the league's fourth-ranked defense. On the defensive end, Miami held Milwaukee to sub-50% shooting in victories while forcing 15 turnovers per game.
The Heat have an exciting challenge in the New York Knicks, whose pace contrasts that of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat must show they can execute with the same efficiency against the Knicks' tight halfcourt defense while contending with their relentless interior attack. Don't be surprised if the match-up between Julius Randle and Bam Adebayo defines this series.
Jimmy Butler was, without a doubt, the best player of the NBA Playoffs' First Round. Not only did he lead the Heat in dispatching the Bucks, but he did it by averaging 37.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists on 59.7% shooting from the field and 44.4% from deep. Despite owning some of the league's best perimeter defenders, Butler overcame them all - the Knicks should be concerned.
Bam Adebayo didn't have a great First Round series in terms of his scoring but certainly made up for it in other areas. He averaged 17.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.0 assists on just 46.3% shooting from the field. The Knicks are another tough interior-defending team, so Adebayo will need to be efficient and productive to help his team to victory.
Gabe Vincent stepped up for the Heat with Tyler Herro unavailable and Kyle Lowry struggling. The Nigerian international only has a little post-season experience, but his averages of 13.0 points and 5.0 assists would suggest otherwise. Solid offensively and tenacious defensively, Vincent's play against Knicks guard Jalen Brunson will be crucial to the series' outcome.
The New York Knicks earned an upset when they defeated the fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers in the First Round. While it was projected to be a tightly contested series, the Knicks surprised by beating Cleveland at their own game - stopping teams on the rim and glass. Now coming up against a hot-shooting Miami Heat team, the Knicks' all-around defense will be tested.
The Knicks played some old-school, smash-mouth basketball in the Eastern Conference First Round. Despite scoring just 99.6 points per game on 43.0% from the field and 28.2% from three, they made up for it by outrebounding their opponents by 8.2 per game and owning the offensive glass by 5.8. New York also forced 15.2 turnovers per game out of one of the league's most responsible offensive teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
New York has an interesting problem when they enter the Second Round. Miami performed above their station offensively in the First Round, so the Knicks now have to prepare for the potential of an up-and-down affair. Jalen Brunson will be the best guard in this series, so expect his performance to determine the Knicks' chances.
Julius Randle struggled in his First Round series despite leading them through the regular season. He averaged 14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.6 threes per game on 33.8% from the field and 23.5% from deep. Against Miami's stalwart defense, Randle can't afford another off-series.
On the other hand, Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett stepped up for the Knicks, with Randle struggling. The pair combined for 41.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 3.6 steals per game. However, the team committed almost five turnovers per game combined against the Cavaliers - something they'll have to clean up against Miami's capable defenders.
Lastly, Mitchell Robinson was the unsung hero of the Knicks' First Round. Averaging a modest 8.0 points but also 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks against the Cavaliers, Robinson proved himself to be the best center in a series featuring one of the league's top sophomores and an All-Star pivot.
In wins, the Knicks won their First Round games by an 11.0-point margin while defeating the Heat in the regular season by a 4.3-point margin. The Heat won their First Round games by a 10.5-point margin and their sole regular season win over the Knicks by seven. The spread is set at +/- 4.0 points.
Through four regular-season meetings, the Knicks and Heat have combined for an average of 223.1 points per game. The Knicks averaged 99.6 points through their First Round series, while the Heat averaged 124.0.
Neither of these teams are known for their scoring efficiency or pace, so don't expect a significantly more significant than their averages. With both teams matching up well, expect the top players to produce the bulk of their team's points.
Odds taken from FanDuel Sportsbook
|O 206.5 (-110)
|New York Knicks
|U 206.5 (-110)
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
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