NBA Legend Picks Knicks, Former NY Star Favors Heat

Jimmy Butler, RJ Barrett, Knicks

Getty Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat drives against RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks.

Outspoken NBA legend Charles Barkley believes the New York Knicks will beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinal that begins on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

“I am going with the New York Knicks,” said Barkley, who wrongly picked the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. “When I look at, okay, [the Heat] got Jimmy Butler and Bam [Adebayo], [but] I think the Knicks got better pieces.”

“I think the Mitchell RobinsonBam Adebayo [matchup] is going to be a heavyweight slugfest in the paint. [The Knicks] got a bunch of bodies they can throw at Jimmy [Butler]. Jimmy is playing great. The wildcard, to me, is gonna be [Julius] Randle. He’s the wildcard because I think he’s gonna have an advantage against Kevin Love or anybody they put on him,” Barkley added.

Randle’s availability for the start of the second round of the NBA Playoffs is in serious jeopardy after he re-aggravated his previous left ankle injury during their series-clinching win against the Cavaliers in Game 5.

Barkley was the only one among the “Inside the NBA” crew who picked the Knicks as Queens native and former Archbishop Molloy high school star and two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith turned his back on his hometown team and went with their arch-rival.

“To me, obviously, Julius Randle has to be healthy,” Smith said. “Both teams have to be healthy, and so we’re gonna say that [if] both teams are healthy, I do believe–I took the Knicks to get here–but I do think the Miami Heat are the better team.”

Veteran host Ernie Johnson agreed with Smith.

“I’m with you on that. I like Miami,” Johnson said. “I like Miami in the series, even though I should probably just wait.”

Shaq Picks Heat

Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who won his fourth NBA championship with the Heat in 2006, also picked his former team because of two factors.

“After what I’ve seen from Miami, I’m not going against them knowing about their culture [and] watching Jimmy [Butler] play spectacular games,” O’Neal said.

“They match up very well with the Knicks, besides the fact that Charles thinks the Knicks have the better lineup. They just played the best guy in the world,” added O’Neal, referring to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who returned in Games 4 and 5 from a back injury, and still, the Bucks lost in five games.

Butler dropped 98 points over the last two games to clinch the series for the Heat, who became the fifth eight-seed to upset the top seed and the first to do it in the play-in era.

Evenly Matched but Knicks Are Betting Favorites

According to Five Thirty Eight, the Knicks and Heat are evenly matched, with both teams having a 50% chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. But the Knicks are -140 betting favorites to win the series, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

The fifth-seeded Knicks hold the homecourt advantage and open the series as a -4 favorite to win Game 1 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks won their season head-to-head, 3-1, but two of those wins were only by a two-point margin, including Julius Randle’s game-winner last March 3.