Before I preview this Thursday’s TNT opener between New York and Miami, I want to address the San Antonio Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home before the team traveled to Miami for last Thursday’s TNT game. You can argue whether Pop had the right to do whatever he wanted with his own team. I lean toward yes, but if I was a Spurs fan in South Florida and bought a $200 ticket I would of course be furious. As would I if I were a TNT executive or an advertiser who bought time during the game.
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I also understand Commissioner David Stern being livid and fining the Spurs $250,000 for the decision. If Popovich had let the league know ahead of time this was coming, the Spurs probably were off the hook. But the coach’s arrogance, really, in just thumbing his nose at the NBA was what so infuriated Stern. Well, that and the fact it was a national TV game and a potential NBA Finals preview. Let me just say I won’t be previewing Spurs games going forward if they are playing for the third time in four nights or something similar. I’m sure Popovich will go through the right channels going forward, but I have no doubt he still rests his veterans when he can. (Amazingly, the Spurs’ JV not only covered against Miami but probably deserved to win the game).
Knicks at Heat Betting Story Lines
The Knicks played in Charlotte on Wednesday night. New York entered that on a three-game winning streak, reaching triple-digits in wins at Milwaukee (ending a three-game road losing streak), vs. Washington and Sunday vs. Phoenix. The Knicks have failed to score 100 points just four times all year. Carmelo Anthony is averaging 30.7 points over his last six games and trails only Kobe Bryant in scoring in the NBA. The Knicks lead the Eastern Conference in point differential.
The real question is what the Knicks might do with Amare Stoudemire whenever he makes his season debut. Stoudemire has said he would be fine coming off the bench as a sixth man, and he and Anthony have yet to prove they can really co-exist together. Stoudemire ran through some team drills Tuesday and said he would “be back soon.” But it’s still unlikely to be before Christmas.
Starting point guard Raymond Felton is playing through a bone bruise and contusion in his lower left hand and is wearing padding on the area. The Knicks were expecting to get back No. 2 point guard Jason Kidd on Wednesday after he missed four games with back spasms. Thanks mostly to Felton and Kidd, the Knicks have the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league and average the fewest turnovers per game. Backup big man Marcus Camby remains out with a foot problem.
The Heat, meanwhile, enter off what might be the most head-scratching loss this season, 105-101 at a Washington team that was 1-13. LeBron James had his first triple-double of the season with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists but missed a potential tying three-pointer in the final seconds as Miami’s six-game winning streak ended. Washington had a season high with 31 assists and scored 60 points in the first half.
The Heat lost starting point guard Mario Chalmers in the second quarter to a jammed finger but he should play Thursday. That meant LeBron had to play the point because Chalmers’ backup, Norris Cole, sat with a groin strain. The Heat are 21-5 when Dwyane Wade, James and Chris Bosh all score at least 20 points, but Tuesday’s loss was the first time that the Heat Big 3 have each scored 20-plus points and the other two starters went scoreless.
The Heat played again without injured forward Shane Battier, who missed his third straight game with a sprained knee ligament. It’s possible he returns Thursday, but at age 34 the team certainly won’t rush its glue guy.
I know we are only about 20 percent into the NBA season, but this game could have playoff tiebreaker implications. The teams entered Wednesday tied atop the Eastern Conference at 12-4. New York could assure itself of no worse than a season split with a win here. That’s because the Knicks routed the Heat on Nov. 2 104-84 at Madison Square Garden in New York’s season opener -- only because the original opener in Brooklyn was postponed by Hurricane Sandy. The Knicks played with a ton of emotion with all the damage in the area, with Anthony scoring 30 points with 10 rebounds. New York made a whopping 19 three-pointers, a record for any team in its season opener. LeBron had 23 points, but Wade and Bosh weren’t huge factors.
Knicks at Heat Betting Odds and Key Trends
The Heat are seven-point favorites with the total at 202 on BetOnline. Miami is 7-9 ATS this season (4-4 at home) and 9-7 “over/under” (6-2 at home). The Knicks (all trends entering Wednesday for NYK) are 11-5 ATS (5-4 on road) and 8-7-1 O/U (5-3-1 on road).
The Knicks are 8-1 ATS in their past nine vs. the Eastern Conference. New York is 9-3 ATS in its past 12 in the second game of a back-to-back. The Heat are 5-1 ATS in their past six Thursday games. Miami is 10-2 ATS in past 12 playing on one day of rest. The Heat have covered just one of their past five overall. The under is 4-1 in the Knicks’ past five Thursday games. The over is 4-1 in Miami’s past five overall. The Knicks are 0-4 ATS in their past four in Miami.
Knicks at Heat Betting Prediction
Expect a shootout as New York and Miami are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in points scored per 100 possessions. Miami is No. 2 in scoring and the Knicks No. 4. Go ahead and throw out that Washington game for Miami – it’s simply impossible for a team to stay focused through an 82-game regular season. Actually, that was probably the worst thing to happen for New York, which will be a bit winded as it is. The Heat like to treat the Knicks as little brothers, not true rivals. And they will remember the first meeting. Take Miami and the under (Heat will be very defensively active after Tuesday’s stinker).
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