Game two of this exciting Eastern Conference series is here, and the Knicks will look to win one game at MSG before heading on the road to Miami. We’ll preview tonight’s game before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half spread bet in this one.
The energy in Madison Square Garden during the first half of game one could almost be felt through the TV. All that excitement and energy helped get New York off to a phenomenal start to the game, as they outscored the Heat 31-21 after the first quarter, and despite a slow second quarter, the Knicks still went into halftime with a five-point lead.
That energy quickly turned to frustration in the third quarter as the Heat came out of halftime and outscored New York 31 to 20. Miami put up a NET rating in the quarter of (54) as they had an effective field goal percentage of 69%, while the Knicks' effective field goal percentage for the quarter was 37.5%.
New York shot 48% from the field for the game, but their leading scorer and star all season, Jalen Brunson, had his worst game of the playoffs. Brunson went 11 for 23 from the field and 0-7 from three as he finished the game with a +/- of (-8). Brunson still finished the game with 25 points, the same amount Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler had, but how they scored those points varies drastically.
Butler shot 50% from the field on 16 attempts while also knocking down nine of his 11 free throw attempts and pulling down ten rebounds. Based on his first-round performance, it was no surprise Butler took over the game, but even with Butler’s showing and taking the loss, there is still some hope for New York moving forward, especially with questions about Butler's ankle coming into tonight.
New York did blow a lead and struggle out of halftime, but they did score 62 points in the paint for the game while holding Miami to 38. They also managed to do that and outrebound the Heat without Julius Randle, who is listed as questionable tonight with his ankle injury.
The Knicks' first-half spread is currently listed at (-3.5), and I’ll be taking that as my play in this one. Even with the game one loss, New York still managed a first-half NET rating of (10.6) and went into halftime with a five-point lead. For the entire postseason, the Knicks have the third-best 1H NET rating amongst playoff teams, while Miami is 13th out of 16 in that category up to this point.
They might have won game one, but their lack of defensive presence in the paint is concerning, especially if Randle can play tonight. Miami allowed 40 first-half points to be scored in the paint in game one, and if New York manages to shoot better than 18.8% from three in the first half, they should be able to attack Miami in numerous ways on the offensive end.
So far this postseason, Miami has been getting 43.5% of their points in the first half from three, which is the highest in the league, but New York can slow that production. The Knicks held the Heat to a 31.1% 1H three-point percentage in game one, and if they know they don’t have to focus as much on paint scoring, they can put a bulk of their efforts into running shooters off the line early in order to build a lead.
New York Knicks 1H (-3.5)