The Miami Heat looks to continue its recent good fortune and add to the Knicks’ woes Thursday when the Eastern Conference foes meet in New York, their first meeting of the season.
The Heat have won four of their last five games to move into sixth place in the conference, the final guaranteed playoff spot.
In turn, the seventh-place Knicks have lost two in a row and six of their last eight to give the New York tabloids plenty of negative headlines.
Jimmy Butler scored 23 points to fuel Miami in a 100-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.
“We still had lapses, but I’m glad those lapses didn’t cost us the game,” Butler said. “We got stops down the stretch when we needed to.”
Butler did most of his damage at the foul line, sinking 10 of 15 free-throw attempts to offset a 6-for-16 performance from the floor. His off-night from the field came on the heels of a three-game stretch in which he made 26 of 38 attempts.
Bam Adebayo collected 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat on Tuesday and Caleb Martin added 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Heat turned up the temperature on defense against the Cavs. They limited Cleveland to just 27.5 percent shooting from 3-point range (11 of 40), with star Donovan Mitchell making just 3 of his 13 attempts.
“We switched coverages from zone to man to blitzing, throwing different looks at their guards and making them make plays on the fly, which is never easy,” Tyler Herro told the Miami Herald.
Herro scored 25 points and Butler added 23 to pace the Heat to a 115-110 victory over the Knicks in their lone meeting in New York last season. RJ Barrett drained six 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 46 points in that game for the Knicks.
Barrett failed to convert from beyond the arc in New York’s last contest, however. He went 0-for-3 from 3-point range and 5-for-13 overall from the floor in a 129-123 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
The Knicks shot 7-for-34 from beyond the arc as a team against the Lakers. They didn’t make a 3-pointer in either the fourth quarter or overtime and saw their season-long percentage from beyond the arc drop to 34.2, which was 25th in the NBA entering Wednesday’s play.
“We had good looks, especially in final quarter,” Jalen Brunson told the New York Post. “The ball just didn’t go in.”
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau saw a bigger problem plaguing his club.
“We’re scoring plenty, that’s not our issue,” he said. “We’ve got to shore up our defense.”
That’s true. New York has allowed an average of 121.8 points over its last eight games.
By comparison, it yielded 103.6 points per game over its previous eight contests. The Knicks posted a 7-1 record in that stretch.