Miami Heat's game against New York Knicks a possible first-round preview -

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Miami Heat's game against New York Knicks a possible first-round preview -
Apr 15th 2012, 01:57

Heat vs. Oklahoma City: NBA Finals preview? Heat vs. Celtics: second-round preview? Heat vs. Bulls: Eastern Conference final preview?

Whether or not the hype lines for those Heat games of the past few weeks play out, none of them can unless the Heat get past the first round. As the East's playoff picture crystallizes, it appears Sunday afternoon's Heat vs. Knicks game could clearly be a first-round preview.

The Heat looks almost locked into the No. 2 seed, while the Knicks and Philadelphia went into Saturday's games tied for Nos. 7 and 8, with New York holding the tiebreaker.

"We know they're good," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "We know what they're capable of. Any series, even last year, the two-seven matchup we had with Philly, it was a tough series. They were a tough team. You have to approach this the same way. They're on a roll. That said, the importance of Sunday's game is increased because it's a potential playoff matchup. We don't want them to have any confidence [against] us."

As to the idea that the Heat might keep a portion of strategy at home so as not to reveal it before the playoffs, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: "There's no secrets in this league. What can you hold back?

"The most important thing for us is we're trying to get an optimal level of play where we're playing at a high level," Spoelstra continued. "We're not there yet, particularly on the road. So, we're not going to keep any cards to our vest. We can't afford to do that right now."

Not a likely preview of Sunday's game is the 102-88 spanking the Heat laid on New York on Feb. 23.

The Heat's defense re-enacted the 1977 blackout on the Jeremy Lin electricity, crushing the point guard into a 1-of-11, eight-turnover night.

Since then, New York has changed coaches — Mike D'Antoni, whose initial "D" definitely isn't for "defense," is out and hard-nosed Hoosier Mike Woodson is in — and put the offense on Carmelo Anthony's shoulders. Amare Stoudemire's back problems should keep him sidelined for Sunday's game.

Like Boston, the Knicks seem to have gotten it together late in this compressed season. They have a nine-game home-winning streak and are 7-3 in their past 10.

"Whenever you have a new coach, there's always a renewed energy and enthusiasm," Heat guard James Jones said. "Those guys are playing with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They have a good team. And they're competitive."

Also, that Feb. 23 game played out in AmericanAirlines Arena. Sunday's game is at Madison Square Garden. Even casual observers know the difference between the Heat at home (25-4) and on the road (16-13).

"We have another chance," Bosh said. "Played at Chicago [on Thursday], came up short. The Garden is a special place, of course. They've been on a roll ever since Woodson took over. We have another chance to get a huge road win."

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