Knicks not giving up as they face Heat
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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat are coming off an incredible double-overtime win in which they set a franchise record by scoring 149 points, and now they face a team that has only recently shown signs of life after nine straight defeats.
The host Heat (38-33) and the New York Knicks (26-45), who will meet Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, were once bitter rivals. But this is the fifth straight season the Knicks have missed the playoffs. In fact, they have won only one playoff series in the past 18 years.
Miami is NBA royalty by comparison, winning five conference championships and three NBA titles in the past dozen years.
New York, which lost star forward Kristaps Porzingis to season-ending surgery after suffering a knee injury Feb. 6, has little to interest its own fans at this point, beside the 2018 NBA Draft.
Knicks players, however, are still trying, which explains their two straight wins, over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday and the Chicago Bulls on Monday.
"Do you want us to go out there and look like bums?" Knicks point guard Trey Burke told the New York Post earlier this week. "They may say we already look like bums. But it's not in my DNA to go out and lose. I don't know how to do that."
Then again, this mini win streak happened at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks will now go on the road, where they are 8-28 this season.
That should leave the Heat very confident for Wednesday's game. In addition, Miami is 21-13 at home this season, and -- assuming they get enough rest after their epic 149-141 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night -- they shouldn't have much trouble against New York.
After all, the Knicks are 3-13 since Porzingis got hurt, and their three wins during that span came against teams that are a combined 62 games under .500.
Heat forward James Johnson scored a career-high 31 points in the wild win over Denver, earning praise from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Heat, meanwhile, have won two of its past three games, and each has been supremely close. Of those three, two of them required a total of three overtimes and the other was decided by one point.
"What a grind," Spoelstra told The Miami Herald. "We've been in more of these (close games) than most teams, and we feel we are getting tougher in these situations."
The Heat is still missing starting center Hassan Whiteside and key reserve shooting guard Dwyane Wade. Whiteside has missed five straight games because of pain in his left hip. Wade has missed four straight games with a left hamstring injury.
Beside Porzingis, the Knicks missed forward Lance Thomas on Monday as he has skipped two straight games for unspecified personal reasons.
Even so, the Knicks grabbed a season-high 61 rebounds against the Bulls in a 110-92 victory. Knicks center Enes Kanter grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in 18 minutes as the Knicks were plus-13 on the boards.
Rebounds are all about effort, and that proves the Knicks aren't trying to lose. Knicks backup center Kyle O'Quinn, who grabbed nine rebounds, said, in essence, that he doesn't believe in so-called tanking.
"I don't think you can get five guys out on the court," O'Quinn said, "and tell them to lose as professionals."
Updated March 20, 2018