What was once one of the fiercest rivalries in NBA history during the late 1990s and early 2000s, the vitriol between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks has simmered down in recent years. Yet, after the two storied franchises squared off once again during the 2023 playoffs, long dormant tensions returned and the rivalry which once captivated the NBA returned with a vengeance; which all NBA fans should be excited about.
Now, we enter the 2023-24 season expecting this rekindled rivalry between the Heat and Knicks to ignite even further. The only question is which team will emerge from the flames unscathed, and which team won’t be able to stand the smoke.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the Heat and Knicks’ head to head history, discuss the origins of their rivalry, notable past matchups, and predict how the two teams will fare against each other in the upcoming 2023-24 season.
Head to Head History
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks have faced each other a total of 169 times. Of those, the Knicks hold a (very narrow) lead in games won, with them winning 85 games compared to the Heat’s 84. The Knicks also have the upper hand in regular season games, winning 69 games to the Heat’s 65. However, the Heat hold the advantage when it comes to postseason games. They have 19 wins against New York, while the Knicks have 16 playoff victories against Miami.
The first matchup between these two teams was March 2, 1989, when the Knicks beat the Heat 132-123. The most recent matchup came on May 12, 2023, when the Heat beat the Knicks 96-92.
The Knicks have the longest winning streak in the all-time series, having won 10 straight games at one point. The two teams will face off next on November 24, 2023, during the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament.
Knicks vs Heat Rivalry Background
The origins of this rivalry are fascinating. It started back in 1992, when Pat Riley was hired to coach the New York Knicks. He turned New York into contenders in a short time, culminating with an Eastern Conference Championship in 1994 before losing in the Finals.
After failing to return to the Finals in 1995, Riley stepped down as the Knicks’ head coach. At the time, many speculated why Riley decided to leave, and wondered whether he’d ever coach again. That question was answered on September 2, 1995, when Riley took over as Team President and Head Coach of the Miami Heat.
Riley’s change in allegiance upset the Knicks organization and fanbase — and thus, a rivalry was born.
Yet, no rivalry takes place off the court. While the distaste these two teams had (and still have) for each other with Riley’s change of scenery, that was just the beginning.
Knicks vs Heat Notable Past Matchups
Prior to the 1997 NBA Playoffs, no two NBA teams had ever met in the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, with each series going to the maximum possible number of games. That was about to change.
In the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Pat Riley’s Heat met his former team, the New York Knicks, after the Heat dethroned the Knicks as Atlantic Division champions. This Semifinals series proved to be one of the most physical and dramatic playoff series in NBA history; proven by a full on brawl between Heat and Knicks players during Game 5. Ultimately, the Heat won the intense series in seven games, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals (where they lost to the Chicago Bulls).
The Heat and Knicks met in the playoffs again one season later, during the 1998 Eastern Conference First Round. This time, however, the Knicks bested the Heat in a tightly contested five game series. There was also a fight in this series between the Heat’s Alonzo Mourning and the Knicks’ Larry Johnson, which occurred during Game 4. The Knicks lost to the Indiana Pacers in the next round of the playoffs.
Once again, the Heat and Knicks met in the 1999 playoffs — this time also in the first round. The Heat were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Knicks were the #8 seed. However, the Knicks shocked the Heat, and beat them in another intense five game series, winning three games to the Heat’s two. After doing so, the Knicks continued their improbable run all the way to the NBA Finals — becoming the first #8 seed to reach the Finals; that is, until the Heat did so in 2023.
But the rivalry didn’t end there, as the Heat and Knicks met in the 2000 playoffs for the fourth straight season. This time, it was in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This series would be the most evenly matched out of the four straight they played — yet, the Knicks would ultimately win the series by winning four games to Miami’s three.
That 2000 playoff series marked the end of what was a fierce and historic rivalry. While the two teams met in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, the Heat easily dispatched the Knicks in five games.
In 2023, the Knicks and Heat played four times in the regular season, with New York winning three of those games (two of which were by two points). But the Heat turned that around in the 2023 playoffs, when they faced New York in Eastern Conference Semifinals and beat them in six games; winning Game 6 by a score of 96-92. That’s where the rivalry stands today.
Knicks vs Heat 2023-24 Matchup Analysis
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks will square off three times during the 2023-24 regular season: on November 24 (in New York), on January 27 (in New York), and on April 2nd (in Miami).
Just like last season, one would expect the Heat and Knicks to have closely contested matchups in 2023-24. On paper, the two teams are extremely similar, in terms of talent. Each roster boasts All-Star caliber players, along with role players who can help their team win on any given night. However, I believe one player will be the X-Factor in this series: Jimmy Butler. His offensive and defensive production was crucial during last year’s playoffs, and ended up being a main reason why the Heat prevailed over the Knicks. Yet, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson averaged 31 points per game during the series. If he’s able to replicate that, perhaps the Knicks will repeat their regular season success against the Heat.
Regardless, this storied rivalry received a fresh coat of paint last season. And fans can expect fireworks every time these two teams square off in 2023-24 — hopefully during the playoffs, as well.
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