While it has been a while since a full-fledged brawl occurred between the Knicks and Heat and only the longest-running fans remember when Jeff Van Gundy was clinging to Alonzo Mourning’s leg trying to protect his players, there always seems to be something extra when the Knicks and Heat face off — particularly with playoff positioning at stake as it was Wednesday night. 

“I think there’s so many different connections,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The history. That was so long ago I don’t think a lot of our players understand it. Erik [Spoelstra] and Pat Riley and those guys, it was a great rivalry because both teams were good and there was a great intensity to the play. And I think that’s what makes a rivalry when you have teams that are really good and they compete — people want to see great competition. 

“Whether it’s high scoring or low scoring, as long as it’s great competition when they’re going at it on every single play, that’s what makes it exciting. And because of the relationship between the two cities too — you have a lot of New Yorkers in Miami, that’s what makes it good.”

Long distance donation

Julius Randle appeared at the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Charter Basketball High School Tuesday and presented students with a check for $880,000 toward their literacy enhancement program, fulfilling a pledge he made 16 months earlier — the 30 for 3 program — to donate $500 for every three-point field goal he made over the last two seasons.

Props for Pop

With Greg Popovich expected to be announced Saturday as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Thibodeau paid homage to one of the leaders in the coaching profession.

“I think what he's done in the league, and again, the mark of greatness,” Thibodeau said. “We were just talking about Pat [Riley]. Same thing with Pop. To be at that level for as long as he has, and he's obviously a great leader, and he’s done an incredible job. You know what they stand for, but also to do it with the humility that he has, I think that's really stood out. 

“And those guys have been great, Pat and Pop have been great examples for all coaches. How you carry yourself, and the things that are meaningful to them. So he probably should have been in a long time ago. I know it's probably his doing. But his record speaks for itself, so very happy for him, well-deserved. And it's a great class, so I think I'm looking forward to watching it.”

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