PREVIEW: Victor Oladipo, slumping Miami Heat visit streaking New York Knicks

Mar 21, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Nerlens Noel #3 of the New York Knicks reacts after he loses control of the ball in the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden on March 21, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The task of trying to replace Mitchell Robinson begins in earnest Monday night for the New York Knicks — even if his eventual successor might not yet be on the roster by the opening tip.

The Miami Heat, on the other hand, are almost certain to have a high-profile reinforcement in uniform.

A pair of teams beginning playoff pushes in different fashions are scheduled to meet Monday night, when the Knicks will attempt to overcome their latest key injury and extend their winning streak when they host the Heat in a battle of longtime rivals.

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Mitchell Robinson’s injury overshadowed the Knicks’ third straight win Saturday, when the third-year center suffered a broken right foot in the first quarter of a 102-96 victory over the host Milwaukee Bucks. The visiting Heat suffered a sixth straight loss Friday, when Miami fell to the Charlotte Hornets, 110-105.

Robinson was playing in just his fourth game since returning from a 15-game absence due to a broken right hand. The 7-footer was injured after he crashed to the floor while battling for a rebound with the Bucks’ Brook Lopez. Robinson immediately grabbed his foot in pain and needed help getting off the floor.

“It sucks, man,” said Knicks guard Derrick Rose, who returned Saturday after missing the previous 10 games while battling the coronavirus. “But for someone like him, seeing how hard he worked to get back, for this to happen, it just sucks.”

The injury to Robinson will likely have short- and long-term impacts upon the Knicks’ already short-handed rotation. With All-Star power forward Julius Randle (thigh) out Saturday, Robinson was slated for a bigger role before he went down. Nerlens Noel replaced Robinson and pulled down 11 rebounds while playing 31:28, the most he’s played off the bench this season.

Even before Robinson got hurt, the Knicks were linked to four-time NBA rebounding champion Andre Drummond, who was bought out Friday by the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Drummond is expected to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Other potential veteran options for New York include the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Al Horford.

Whomever replaces Robinson will be tasked with trying to help the Knicks complete a surprising surge into the playoffs. New York (24-22), which hasn’t made the postseason since the spring of 2013, has already won three more games than it did last season and will enter Monday as one of the Eastern Conference’s top six seeds.

The Heat will likely have some help Monday as Miami — which won 11 of 12 before beginning its current skid — tries to snap the losing streak that has left it on the outside looking in on a guaranteed playoff spot.

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Guard Victor Oladipo, who was acquired from the Houston Rockets Thursday, is expected to step into the lineup for the Heat, who will enter Monday in eighth place in the East. The seventh- through 10th-place teams in each conference will participate in a play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff berths.

But with Oladipo joining a core that includes All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Heat feel well-positioned to make another playoff run. Miami reached the NBA Finals as the fifth seed in the East last summer.

“I’d watch out for us,” Heat president Pat Riley said Thursday night.

–Field Level Media