Miami Heat will face a New York Knicks team with more weapons

 

 

The addition of Derrick Rose to Kristaps Porzingis (l) and Carmelo Anthony (r) have the the Knicks above .500. (Getty Images)

The addition of Derrick Rose to Kristaps Porzingis (L) and Carmelo Anthony (R) have the the Knicks above .500. (Getty Images)

MIAMI – Few rivalries provided the intensity and drama of the Heat and Knicks of the late ‘90s when the teams met four consecutive years in the playoff, all going the distance with New York winning three.

Then came the lost decade and a half for the Knicks. Since the 1999-2000 season, New York has won one playoff series and averaged 49 losses a season (not including the lock-out shortened 2011-12 season).

Meanwhile, the Heat have won three titles and played in five Finals.

When the two teams meet tonight for the first of three games this season, the Knicks will have won 6-of-8 to go two games over .500 this late in the season for the first time in four years. They added Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah among others to go along with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

Although this is a short-term fix considering Anthony’s age and Rose’s and Noah’s injury history, New York has improved offensively through 20 games and could make a playoff run.

“They’re playing at a different level,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have proven high-level NBA guys that you have to game plan for.”

Porzingis, 21, the team’s foundation, is averaging 20.6 points and 7.4 rebounds. While the Phil Jackson era has been mainly a bust (he was named president in 2014), drafting the 7-foot-3 Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in 2015 is the highlight.

“Porzingis is bringing it (and) like so many guys in that draft class is super unique, his skill set and size,” Spoelstra said.

Anthony leads the Knicks with a 22.5 average. Rose is adding 17.0 points and 4.9 assists. Noah has been a disappointment despite leading the team with 7.9 rebounds. He is averaging just 3.9 points.

“It looks like Derrick Rose is healthy and as explosive and confident as he’s been in a long time,” Spoelstra said. “He looks like the Derrick Rose we know. You’re happy for him. For him to go out there and perform and be healthy every single night. Anthony is somebody you have to put two guys on the ball often times. It’s a requirement because of the mismatch and his ability.”

Anthony’s scored 50 points against the Heat on April 2, 2013.

The Knicks are 15th in the league in scoring at 104.3 points per game. A year ago they finished 27th with 98.4 points. The defense, though, has slipped coming in at 15th, allowing 106.5 ppg. Last year they were 10th at 101.1 ppg.

“So often in this league you come up with a lot of different storylines but if a team isn’t healthy. …” Spoelstra said. “You have three guys that are high-level NBA guys. The roster is improved, but three guys that are playing healthy and confident right now.”

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