This game didn’t come down to the last possession.
After playing three games down to the wire to open the season — and losing two of them — the Miami Heat went on a decisive 19-2 third-quarter run against the New York Knicks to come away with a 110-87 home victory. Miami scored 45 points in the third period, their highest output of this young season.
The Heat imposed their will on the Knicks in that third quarter, operating like a veteran team that was done playing with their opponents. And Hassan Whiteside played a big role in that. In the clip below, he plays good pick-and-roll defense and instigates a Rodney McGruder 3-pointer.
Solid defense by Whiteside on Burke leads to another three for McGruder pic.twitter.com/YXO6c8Uuhs— Joseph Beguiristain (@JoeBeguiristain) October 25, 2018
Whiteside finished with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. The Heat big man even took 10 trips to the foul line, an indication of his high activity and engagement (Whiteside only made six of those attempts, though).
But it wasn’t just Whiteside. Miami also drained seven 3-pointers in that decisive third quarter, helping them turn a two-point halftime lead into a blowout. Goran Dragic even took pull-up 3s in mid-transition.
The shot that makes the Heat that much more dynamic. Goran, Rodney and JRich have all hit off the dribble tonight. pic.twitter.com/1rd8ycvYh0— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) October 25, 2018
With the Heat’s best 3-point shooter, Wayne Ellington, still having yet to play this season, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder picked up the slack from beyond the arc. McGruder shot a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown, while Richardson was 5-of-6 from 3.
After struggling early, Richardson took control of the Heat offense, finishing with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting and eight rebounds. Richardson also created his own shot on a few key possessions — including early in the fourth quarter to avoid making this game harder than it needed to be — continuing to grow into the Heat’s best all-around player.
In addition to Ellington, the Heat also didn’t have Derrick Jones Jr. (foot injury) and Justise Winslow, who warmed up with the intention to play but had him hamstring flare up just before tip-off. (James Johnson also was ruled out prior to tip-off.) As a result, Erik Spoelstra started Kelly Olynyk at the power forward spot. Olynyk scored 11 points and came up with six assists on the night, working especially well with Dwyane Wade on offense.
With Miami’s plethora of injuries with their forwards, Erik Spoelstra played the rookie Duncan Robinson, who emerged as a summer-league standout with his 3-point shooting. Robinson’s first attempt and make was, of course, a 3-pointer.
Duncan Robinson's first bucket...a triple. pic.twitter.com/sTnsYM1LFp— Joseph Beguiristain (@JoeBeguiristain) October 25, 2018
Miami’s injuries have given several Heat players minutes they might not otherwise have had. McGruder is making a strong case for remaining in the rotation. The Heat’s starting small forward scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists in 31 minutes Wednesday night.
Rodney McGruder is everywhere tonight!— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) October 25, 2018
5 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST with 2:49 remaining in the the 1st.
Watch your @MiamiHeat on FOX Sports Sun and on the FOX Sports App.#NYKvsMIA #HEATCulture #NBA pic.twitter.com/Xlq8ISZPhE
He was dynamic throughout the entire night, playing active defense and operating as a key cog in Miami’s high-octane offense. Keep in mind, McGruder missed nearly all of last season with an injury and never made it back into the rotation. This early in the 2018-19 season, he’s made the biggest leap out of anyone.
The Heat will next face the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday at 8 p.m.