Should Knicks want to play Sixers or Heat in first round of 2024 playoffs?

The Play-In Tournament will determine who the Knicks play in the first round.
New York Knicks, Miami Heat
New York Knicks, Miami Heat / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks will get some much-needed rest as they wait to learn who they'll play in the first round of the 2024 playoffs. On Wednesday night, the Knicks and their fanbase will tune into ESPN to watch the Play-In Tournament battle between the No. 7 Sixers and No. 8 Heat.

The first-round series will either pit New York against a hated division rival or a long-time hated rival that eliminated the Knicks in the postseason last year. How sweet it'd be to send either team home (or to Cancun).

If New York finished as the No. 3 seed, the team would play Indiana in the first round, which would've given the Knicks more of an advantage, considering the Pacers don't believe in defense. Instead, the struggling Bucks will take on Tyrese Haliburton and Indiana.

Over the next few days, Knicks fans will debate whether their team should want to face either the Sixers or the Heat in the first round.

Should Knicks be pulling for Sixers or Heat in Play-In Tournament?

To be clear, New York should be pulling for both teams to lose. Unfortunately, that's impossible. If the Knicks had to choose who they play, it should be the Sixers. No, that doesn't mean New York would be a lock to beat Philadelphia in the first round.

As nice as it'd be to get revenge on the Heat, Miami turns into a different team in the postseason. As Josh Hart said, Jimmy Butler does side quests during the regular season before he locks in.

Last year, the Heat secured the No. 8 seed in the playoffs and made it all the way to the NBA Finals. No one saw that coming. With Erik Spoelstra and Butler, anything is possible. It doesn't matter who the supporting cast is.

If the Sixers win, they will secure their seventh straight playoff berth, but none of those postseason trips included a stop in the Eastern Conference Finals. It helps that Philadelphia has Joel Embiid back after he underwent knee surgery in early February. He missed the Sixers' regular-season finale, but ESPN's Tim Bontemps reported that Embiid will be available on Wednesday.

It doesn't take a genius to determine that Philly is a much better team with Embiid. He averaged 30.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in the five games he played to close out the regular season. Since his return, there have been moments where his knee has seemed to bother him, but Embiid hasn't suffered any setbacks. He could struggle in the postseason when the intensity ramps up, though.

New York's biggest challenge against Philadelphia will be guarding Embiid, who is averaging 11.6 free throw attempts per game this season. He gets the calls that Knicks fans want Brunson to get. It'd help if New York had Julius Randle to help with Embiid down low, but luckily, the Knicks have Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson.

Tyrese Maxey would also be a defensive headache for New York, but so would Butler. After all, it's the playoffs. It's not going to be easy.

At the end of the day, the Knicks should welcome a series against the Sixers or the Heat. New York finished 3-1 against Philadelphia in the regular season and 2-1 versus Miami. The Knicks have the blueprint to beat either team, but regardless, New York's first-round matchup will be a dogfight.

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