NEW YORK -- 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 thats 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 teams focus will be limited the majority of the time. Based on the end of the 2011-2012 regular season, thats the truth of it.
Based on such a scarcity of meaningful games, it all makes Sundays 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 Heats 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 Heats 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.
Its something the Heat cant 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 were all looking forward to it, Wade said. I think its a perfect time for us.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra denied any interest in the record, saying after Fridays victory that he hasnt spoken to his team about it once. The official company line: Getting even with the Knicks is all that matters.
Were taking this game as it is, Spoelstra said. Theyve pounded us and embarrassed us with two over-20-point wins on each floor.
For Chris Bosh, theres a psychological element at play.
You have to know you can beat teams, Bosh said. You cant drop four and then say, Oh, well, you know. Its OK.
And, of course, theres 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 were probably going to see them, or theres a chance to see them, in the postseason, especially late, Bosh said. We know how it is. We dont 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 seasons championship team and accompanied the Heat to China in the preseason.