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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Opening Tip: Feeling the Heat?

By Ian Begley

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: How wide is the gap between the Knicks and Heat?

"Take it one game at a time" is one of the most frequently-used cliches in sports.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson has used it again and again in the past couple days whenever someone asks him about Thursday's game against the Miami Heat.

He insists that his team isn't thinking about Miami yet, that it's focused on Wednesday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

And that makes sense. That's what good teams do.

But that doesn't mean we have to take it one game at a time.

With that in mind, let's take a quick look at the differences that exist between the Heat (12-4) and the Knicks (12-4) prior to Thursday's showdown in Miami.

New York and Miami are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in points scored per 100 possessions, a stat that reflects a team's offensive productivity. The Knicks are scoring just 0.8 points per 100 possessions more than the Heat.

The gap's a bit bigger on the defensive end.

The Knicks rank 11th in defensive efficiency, a measure of opponents' points scored per 100 possessions. Miami, which struggled mightily early on on the defensive end, ranks 19th, giving up two more points per 100 possessions than the Knicks.

Neither team is that strong on the boards and both take care of the ball, but New York averages 2.7 fewer turnovers per game, though the difference between the teams' assist-to-turnover ratio isn't as great.

Numbers aside, individual matchups are always going to be a problem against the Heat.

Dwyane Wade's scoring at his lowest rate since his rookie year, but LeBron James is showing everyone why he's the best player on the planet (he's No. 1 in PER, a measure of a player's per minute production).

Wade can be neutralized by the Knicks' perimeter defenders, but it obviously isn't as easy to slow James, regardless of whether you put Anthony, Brewer or anyone else on him.

And then there's Chris Bosh. Bosh is playing his best basketball since signing with the Heat, ranking 11th in PER and averaging 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds a night.

He's a tough matchup for the Knicks. If Tyson Chandler guards him, that can expose the rim as Chandler's forced to follow Bosh on the perimeter. And Bosh is flat-out quicker than Rasheed Wallace or Kurt Thomas.

Woodson's club trounced the Heat in the season opener and it seems to have closed the gap significantly since losing to Miami in the first round of the playoffs.

Question: How wide do you think the gap is between the Knicks and Heat?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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