Knicks gearing up for big game against Heat at MSG

Julius Randle, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks will take on the Miami Heat on Thursday for the first time this season as New York looks to shake off two consecutive gut-punching losses for their first game in February.

Thursday’s game serves as the second of a four-game homestand and will also be the fourth time in their last five games that they will face a team currently sitting comfortably in a playoff position.

The Heat are the team that sits in front of the Knicks in the Eastern Conference standings. New York is two games back of Miami for the sixth seed.

The Knicks will be looking to get back in the win column Thursday:

After struggling throughout the early portions of the season, Miami has started to figure it out, going 10-5 in the month of January. They will also enter this game hot of late, as they have won four of their last five games this season.

Therefore, the Knicks will be up for yet another challenge in a stretch of games that has been far from easy. New York will also have to deal with yet another pair of All-Stars, Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Given that the Knicks are still without their best run protector, Mitchell Robinson, containing Butler and Adebayo will be rather difficult, as the duo loves to do most of their work in the paint.

For the Knicks to have a better chance at winning Thursday’s game, they will need to defend every part of the floor better than they have of late. Along with Adebayo and Butler’s interior skillset, they also have very solid shooters in Tyler Herro and Max Strus, so the Knicks will need to play much tighter defense on Thursday.

Offensively, the Knicks will likely need to find a way to break the Heat’s coveted zone defense to score at a high level. The Knicks have had struggles against tight zone defenses this season, with a lot of stagnation surrounding the movement of the ball, which has forced them to take bad shots or turn the ball over. They will need to put added pressure on Miami’s defense to generate good offense.

Another big game from Jalen Brunson, who notched his sixth 30+ point game of January on Tuesday with a 37-point masterclass, will also be instrumental for the Knicks if they expect to win this one.

Looking at injuries, Robinson is the only Knicks player listed on the injury report who’s out for Thursday. For the Heat, Nikola Jovic, Orlando Robinson, and Duncan Robinson are all out, while Victor Oladipo and Gabe Vincent are both questionable.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @DylanBacker_

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