NBA Playoffs: New York Knicks, Miami Heat series preview

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (Senior NBA Analyst) 

April 30, 2023 07:21 AM


Opening Price (via DraftKings): New York Knicks (-140) Miami Heat (+120)

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It is a new series, but the same situation for the New York Knickerbockers as they enter the conference semifinals.

Julius Randle aggravated his already injured ankle in the closeout game of their series against Cleveland, and his status is in question as we approach the first game of this series with the Miami Heat. If Randle cannot play it changes the matchups for the Knicks on the court, and it alters the probability of them winning this series. 

Meanwhile, the Heat just ousted the top seed in the Eastern Conference with an incredible shooting performance that stretched over five games. If that luck runs out, then the one-man army that is Jimmy Butler might be up against it.

Injury concerns for New York

Randle’s injury is obviously a massive one, but not one the market seems to care about this time around. When Randle was in question prior to the series with Cleveland the series price reached -210 at a few shops around the country. This time, the market either believes he is playing to start the series, or does not care about his potential absence.

He might not be the most efficient scorer at times, but Randle’s presence is massive for New York’s defense. Randle would be the primary defender for Butler, and if he cannot go that means lesser defensive options like Obi Toppin or RJ Barrett would be forced to guard Butler. Both give up some sort of size, be it weight or height, to Butler, and would be a negative on him defensively.

Miami’s impending regression

The Heat deserve all the credit in the world for beating the Bucks in the fashion they did, but it would be foolhardy to ignore how those victories came about.

Miami, the 27th ranked 3-point shooting team in the NBA in the regular season (34.8%) shot 45.0% from beyond the arc for the series against Milwaukee, and an insane 54.5% on contested 3-point attempts. According to Cleaning The Glass’ location effective field goal percentage metric, the Heat’s effective field goal percentage for the series should have been 52.3% had it shot league average from each location on the floor, as opposed to the 60.5% it posted for the series.

Those kind of unsustainable shooting numbers are a troubling sign, especially in this series against a quality defensive team where you might feel the absence of Tyler Herro more.

Betting Analysis

At first glance I found myself gravitating towards Miami due to the absence of Julius Randle, but the more I looked into the shooting numbers for the Heat in that last series the more I found myself unwilling to buy in.

The Heat won that series due to unsustainable production, and in each of the final two games of the series it trailed by double-digits in the fourth quarter for a reason. Not only can you not replicate the shooting as a team, but Butler cannot continue this scoring production over the course of the series.

However, the injury to Randle creates uncertainty for the Knickerbockers. The market moving the way it is paints a picture of confidence in Randle’s status, but I cannot find any information that indicates he will be healthy and ready when the season begins Sunday morning. Given the Heat’s ability to rebound as well as they can defensively - They finished fourth in the regular season - the Knicks will have trouble leaning on the offensive rebounding that got them through the series with the Cavaliers. That should be enough to drag this series out.

Bet Recommendation: Heat +1.5 games (-170)

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