MIAMI -- Mike Woodson said he hoped the Heat's winning streak would be alive when the Knicks played Miami -- and he thought it would be.
"I didn't think they'd lose, to be honest with you, until maybe when they played us," Woodson said before the Knicks faced the Heat last night. "It's phenomenal to go through something like that. Players had to be sky high in putting a streak like that together. Maybe we might get there one day, who knows."
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The Heat's streak ended last Wednesday at 27 games in Chicago. Comparatively speaking, the Knicks took a modest eight-game winning streak into a game that lost a lot of its luster perhaps in part because of the Heat's loss last week.
Miami sat LeBron James (right hamstring), Dwyane Wade (right ankle) and Mario Chalmers (right ankle) for the second straight game. If the Heat was going for its 31st consecutive win they might have been able to play. But the Heat already has wrapped up the top seed in the East, so it can rest some key players for the playoffs.
The Knicks aren't there yet, and may not get there.
Each game is significant for the Knicks, who had Tyson Chandler back in the lineup after he missed 10 games with knee and neck injuries. The Knicks are aiming for their first Atlantic Division title since 1994, their first 50-win season since 1999-2000 and to secure the No. 2 overall seed in the East, which would give them the homecourt edge until the conference finals.
The Knicks went into last night one-half game behind Indiana. They play the Pacers April 14 at the Garden in a game that could decide who gets the No. 2 spot.
"It could come down to that game," Woodson said. "I'm not looking that far down. We've got to take care of our business before we play them."
It's safe to presume if the Knicks reach the conference finals their opponent would be the Heat. And the Knicks would face a much different Miami team than last night when Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh started.
" 'The Expendables' will be ready to go," Heat forward Shane Battier joked.
James would have to be in a hospital bed to miss a playoff game, and especially the conference finals. The defending champion Heat is expected to get there, but the Knicks have some obstacles they must overcome.
The first is winning a playoff series for the first time since 2000. And if Boston or Chicago is the Knicks' first-round opponent, their playoff drought could continue.
In the Knicks' favor right now is how they've been defending and moving the ball during this winning streak. They're playing like they did during their 18-5 start, which included two wins over the Heat at full strength, including one without Carmelo Anthony.
"They play with a great deal of space," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Anthony is having a career year. It's tough to get to him with your help defense with the way they space the floor. They dealt with a lot of injuries so I think they've done a real admirable job of holding the fort, but also finding ways to win when you've got guys out. That speaks to the veteran team that they have, the coaching. They pose a lot of problems."
The Knicks probably won't win 27 in a row like Woodson hopes, but he likes what he's seen from them the last couple of weeks.
"This is the time when you got to start playing your best basketball and it's got to continue on into the playoffs," Woodson said. "We've had our ups and downs and we've had our share of injuries just like everybody else. We've picked up our pace a little bit and that's how it should be."