Miami Heat turns attention to the New York Knicks


Sunday: Heat at Knicks

When/where: 1 p.m., Madison Square Garden, New York.

TV/radio: ABC; 790 AM, 104.3 FM and 710 AM (Spanish).

Series: Knicks lead 57-42.

Outlook: The Heat is 16-11 on the road and has won 13 consecutive games. A win Sunday would tie the franchise record for consecutive victories. … The Heat has won its past five road games by double digits. … Ray Allen has scored at least 10 points in each of his past eight games. … Shane Battier has connected on at least one three-point field goal in 14 consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak of his career. He is shooting 61.5 percent (32 of 52) from distance over his past 10 games. … The Knicks are averaging 18.5 three-pointers per game against the Heat this season.


Really, if you trim away the fat — and there are pounds and pounds of excess here in the next two months — only a few games left on the schedule still actually interest the Heat. Here they are:

• Sunday against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

• Next Sunday in Miami against the Pacers.

• March 30, at San Antonio.

• April 2, against the Knicks in Miami.

• Maybe, depending on Derrick Rose, a couple games against the Bulls (March 27 and April 14).

And that’s it. Everything else is white noise, an ongoing “maintenance program” until the playoffs begin.

Sure, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will offer lip service to every foe, but the team’s focus will be limited the majority of the time. Based on the end of the 2011-2012 regular season, that’s the truth of it.

Based on such a scarcity of meaningful games, it all makes Sunday’s game against the Knicks all the more interesting.

The Heat has walked away from New York in the conference standings, but there was still a feeling of unfinished business Friday night. Shortly after its victory against the Grizzlies, the Heat’s attention shifted to the Knicks, its main Eastern Conference rival, a potential playoff opponent and the team that has dominated Miami like no other this season.

The Knicks are 2-0 against the Heat, winning both the first and second games by 20 points. Based on the Heat’s current form — it has won 13 consecutive games — another blowout loss seems unlikely, but if the Heat loses a third consecutive game to the Knicks, New York will win the regular-season series.

It’s something the Heat can’t allow, especially with it standing at the brink of history. A win on Sunday would give the Heat 14 in a row and tie the franchise record for consecutive victories.

“I know we’re all looking forward to it,” Wade said. “I think it’s a perfect time for us.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra denied any interest in the record, saying after Friday’s victory that he hasn’t spoken to his team about it “once.” The official company line: Getting even with the Knicks is all that matters.

“We’re taking this game as it is,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve pounded us and embarrassed us with two over-20-point wins on each floor.”

For Chris Bosh, there’s a psychological element at play.

“You have to know you can beat teams,” Bosh said. “You can’t drop four and then say, ‘Oh, well, you know. It’s OK.’ ”

And, of course, there’s always a chance the Heat could match up with the Knicks in the playoffs. Historically, those scenarios have been fun.

“Winning streaks come and go, but most importantly we’re probably going to see them, or there’s a chance to see them, in the postseason, especially late,” Bosh said. “We know how it is. We don’t want them to have a ton of confidence, especially late if that possible scenario matches up.”

• In a surprising move, the Heat signed Juwan Howard to a 10-day contract Friday. Howard was on last season’s championship team and accompanied the Heat to China in the preseason.

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