Heat Embracing Challenge Of Postseason Push

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MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Miami Heat continue their quest to seal an Eastern Conference playoff spot when they host the struggling New York Knicks on Friday night in the back end of a home-and-home set.

The Heat, who entered Thursday tied for seventh in the East with Indiana and 1 ½ games ahead of ninth-place Chicago, rolled to a 105-88 victory in New York on Wednesday after beating Detroit at the buzzer one night earlier.

“Our guys understand what’s at hand,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “I want our guys to embrace this challenge and enjoy it. This was a tough back to back, and we were able to get it done. But we have to move on back to Miami and face the next challenge.”

Heat center Hassan Whiteside said his team is in a playoff mindset already and it will face a Knicks squad that was mathematically eliminated from postseason contention this week.

New York, which started the season with playoff aspirations, has dropped six of its last seven contests to miss the postseason for the fourth straight year.

Guard Derrick Rose scored 51 points combined in two games before missing Wednesday’s contest with a sore knee, but could return to action against Miami on Friday.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), FSN Sun (Miami)

ABOUT THE KNICKS (28-47): Leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (22.5) was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in 29 minutes during the opener of the home-and-home. “I’m just here to help the guys and get them positive and motivated,” Anthony told reporters. “I think my role at this point is to be there for these guys. I don’t think me going out there to score 30 and 40 every night, playing that way, will help them out at this point.” Center Kristaps Porzingis (18.1 points, 7.3 rebounds) scored 45 combined on 16-of-29 shooting in the last two contests after making under 40 percent in the previous two.

ABOUT THE HEAT (37-38): Miami has won nine of its last 13 and point guard Goran Dragic continues to play a huge role, averaging 24 points in the last two games to push his season mark to 20.1. Whiteside, who entered Thursday tied for the league lead in rebounds (14.0), has been kept under 10 boards in the past two games but had the biggest with a tip-in at the buzzer to beat Detroit on Tuesday. Forward James Johnson averaged 18 points in the last three games while guard Josh Richardson, taking a bigger role of late, scored 17 points in Wednesday’s victory and is averaging almost 12 in a six-game span.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Miami G Dion Waiters, who is third on the team at 15.8 points per game, could miss his seventh straight game with an ankle injury.

2. New York C Willy Hernangomez is averaging 14 points over the last five contests on 56.6 percent shooting from the field.

3. The Knicks have won in their last two trips to Miami, including a 114-103 triumph with 35 points from Anthony on Dec. 6.

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