For the first time this season, the Miami Heat are now on a losing streak after the New York Knicks, much like the Brooklyn Nets did, stormed back late in the game for the stunning 124-121 win at Madison Square Garden.
Miami led by as many as seven points with less than five minutes remaining in the game with a chance to extend the lead on a Jimmy Butler jump shot. He would go on to miss three more shots while the Knicks went on their run during crunch time to end their five game losing streak and win their tenth game of the season.
They once again failed to turn up their defensive intensity in the fourth quarter and the Knicks made them pay by either earning a trip to the foul line or scoring off of second or even third opportunities. Not only did they allow 40 points in the final quarter, the Heat also squandered chances to get back in the game and Butler missed a costly free throw late that would have tied the score.
As crucial as those late game plays were that swung the momentum towards the home team, the Knicks feasted inside the entire game and seemingly scored at will in the paint. It was a problem that could never be properly corrected and it eventually cost the Heat dearly.
Six players scored in double figures for the Heat, but James Johnson was particularly impressive once again off the bench with 19 points. In one sequence, he rebounded his own missed free throw and bullied his way back into the paint for another basket. He also continued to show impressive range, this time going 3-3 from beyond the arc including one to end the third quarter. JJ’s resurgence however led to another DNP for Kelly Olynyk. Butler led the team with 25 points and also contributed 10 rebounds and six assists.
After boosting their record with 12 straight wins against sub-.500 teams, Miami has now lost four straight games, all on the road, against such teams and have lost four of their last seven games.
How the Heat respond to their first tough stretch this season could define just how far they can go. Next up are the San Antonio Spurs at home on Wednesday before hitting the road for two games, including a rematch in San Antonio next Sunday.