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2023 Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview: Miami Heat Vs. New York Knicks

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

2023 Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview: Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks

Who would have thought we’d end up here? The No. 5-seeded New York Knicks and the No. 8-seeded Miami Heat will meet for a chance at the Eastern Conference Finals. Both teams defeated their higher-seeded opponents in the first round. This is not what we were expecting, but how could you complain about a matchup like this one?

Old-time NBA fans remember the fierce rivalry that these two had in the 1990s. A once epic rivalry died off when the two teams diverged. Since 2000, Miami and New York have only met one time in the Playoffs.

This season, the Knicks defeated the Heat three out of four times in regular season play. The first two matchups were New York wins, with the Knicks winning both games by two points. The Heat won the third matchup at the Garden, and New York defeated Miami in South Florida a week later. The winner of this series will face either the Boston Celtics or the Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference Finals.

Only six No. 8 seeds have ever advanced past the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and that’s exactly what the Miami Heat just did. They executed the Gentleman’s Sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks. Heat star Jimmy Butler has been nothing short of explosive so far in these playoffs, averaging 37.4 points in the five games against Milwaukee.

Even one of the league’s best defenders, Jrue Holiday, was no match for Butler in that series. Miami shot an outstanding 45 percent from 3-point range against the Bucks. They also garnered a lot of solid bench play, something they didn’t see a ton of in the 2022-23 regular season.

The Knicks enter this series as the slight favorites. They too grabbed a five-game series win, against the No. 4-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. Jalen Brunson was a key scorer for the Knicks, scoring at least 20 points in every game in the series. New York held Cleveland to a league-wide low 79 points in a series-altering Game 3 victory and dismantled the Cavs on the offensive boards. NYK grabbed 39.4 percent of offensive rebounds in that series, the highest percentage for any team in any series in the last nine years, according to NBA.com. Mitchell Robinson was a key player in that aspect, grabbing at least 10 boards in three out of the five games.

Starting Lineups + One Question

The always reliable Bam Adebayo mans the paint. Butler, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and likely Kevin Love round out the starting five. Miami gets key minutes from Caleb Martin, Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson as well.

Life without Tyler Herro was tough for Miami, and one of the reasons that Butler put up the numbers he did, was that they were without their other primary scorer in Herro. He won’t play for the Knicks series either, as he’s out for the season with a broken hand.

Therefore, my one question for Miami will be if they can fill the shoes of their injured players. Herro was key to this team’s success. They’ll have to rely on Martin, Strus and Robinson to fill that role. They don’t have Victor Oladipo, either. It was enough to get past the Bucks with Butler playing hero ball, but will it be sustainable enough to get past a deep New York team?

For New York, Brunson, Robinson, and RJ Barrett are ready to go for this series. They all played very well against the Cavs. It remains to be seen how many games deadline-acquisition Josh Hart will start, but regardless, he’ll play crucial minutes. An underrated pickup at the deadline ended up being very important for this Knicks team. Immanuel Quickley was a candidate for the sixth man of the year and scored 19 in the series finale vs. Cleveland. Obi Toppin and Isaiah Hartenstein play key minutes for the Knicks as well.

The keynote is Julius Randle. Unlike most of the season, Randle struggled in the Cavs series, posting a minus-0.7 plus-minus, meaning the Knicks were better with him off the court. He sprained his ankle in Game 5 against the Cavaliers. Will he be healthy enough to come back for Game 1? If he is healthy, will he be as effective as he was in the regular season?

Odds

The Knicks enter this series with better odds to win the series but by a slight margin, according to DraftKings. Currently, New York has (-140) odds to win the series, with Miami sitting at (+120). For those not well-versed in the betting world, this means that the Knicks have an implied probability of 58.33 percent to win the series.

In my opinion, these are perfect odds. Knicks-Heat will be a lot of fun, with a lot of close battles and physical play. You can’t just up and pick a definite favorite here, but the Knicks are the slight favorites. The odds swing toward New York for a few reasons, but mostly because of Miami’s injuries.

Schedule

Here is the schedule for the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals between Miami and New York.

GAMEDATELOCATIONTIME (ET)TV
Game 1Sunday, April 30Madison Square Garden (NY)1:00 pmABC
Game 2Tuesday, May 2Madison Square Garden (NY)7:30 pmTNT
Game 3Saturday, May 6Kaseya Center (Miami)3:30 pmABC
Game 4Monday, May 8Kaseya Center (Miami)7:30 pmTNT
Game 5*Wednesday, May 10Madison Square Garden (NY)TBDTBD
Game 6*Friday, May 12Kaseya Center (Miami)TBDTBD
Game 7*Monday, May 15Madison Square Garden (NY)8:00 pmTNT
*- if necessary

Prediction

Knicks in 7

Miami will have an uphill battle to fight in this series, just like they did against the Bucks. Lightning doesn’t usually strike twice, so I don’t think Miami will get as many fluke events to fall into their laps as last series. I think the Knicks barely edge out the Heat thanks to Miami’s injuries. They’ll miss Herro in this series. The Knicks will get Randle back and he’ll play better in this series than he did against the Cavs. New York’s roster is very deep and they’re ready for this kind of challenge. It’ll be hard to defend Butler no doubt, but if they can do their best to neutralize the guys around Butler, New York has a good chance to advance.

In any event, this series is going to have my full attention. This Knicks-Heat matchup is one of the more exciting series in these playoffs.

***

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