Game Recap: Shorthanded Heat fall to Knicks 111-105
Without Jimmy Butler, the Heat kept things incredibly close, but would ultimately fall to the Knicks in the final minutes.
Game 2. No Jimmy Butler. The Heat once again found itself as the underdog, but you’d never know it as they traded punches with New York. It wasn’t a pretty start with New York hitting some big shots to get a quick lead, but it was Bam Adebayo on offense who looked aggressive carrying the scoring load early. Caleb Martin, Kevin Love and Gabe Vincent also contributed heavily taking the lead, albeit briefly. Miami continued their hot shooting from beyond the arc, going 7/12 from three and that kept the lead changing often as Randle and NY also shot quite well. Headed into the second quarter the Heat found itself down only two.
Without Jimmy, the Heat looked cohesive with everybody contributing as Spo cycled through the bench often. Lowry looked excellent commanding the offense and creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. Miami’s defense was also great as they kept the Knicks scoreless for over three minutes.
The Knicks wouldn’t give the Heat an opportunity to build too big a lead, stealing it back with a flurry of transition buckets. But Miami’s role players didn’t back down with players like Zeller, and Duncan and Caleb working to steal back the lead and build on it. Caleb was fantastic, playing aggressive and reaching double figures for the heat first. Still, New York wasn’t out of it - staying in striking distance off stellar play from the returned Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and consistent Brunson bringing things with one. Barrett tied things up as the half came to a close, but a late drawn charge by Max Strus got the Heat an opportunity that was realized by Kevin Love to get the Heat up three headed into the second half.
The Knicks came out swinging to start the second half, tying things up. But that didn’t stop Miami from competing, as they scavenged for good looks and easy buckets.
With Strus catching fire briefly the Heat put together a six point lead. But the Knicks snapped it quickly, and on that run Strus would hurt his back on a charge attempt (he struggled to be mobile but stayed on the court). Gabe Vincent continued his playoff tradition of hitting big shots, shifting momentum back in Miami’s favor. On the other end it was Brunson causing the Heat a ton of trouble as he hit some huge shots to get back within one and eventually taking the lead. Thankfully the Bam/Kyle two man game proved fruitful to keep things uncomfortably close. Off another Gabe bucket, the Heat took a one point lead into the fourth and final quarter.
Caleb continued his exceptional game, hitting yet another three to start the fourth and getting some even tougher looks to go. With Vincent also hitting some tough looks of his own Miami once again had the lead. Vincent was on fire as he compiled eight straight points and found Caleb for yet another three to set up a 13-6 run.
Still even with the Heat playing nearly flawless offensive basketball, the Knicks and Jalen Brunson continued to wreak havoc on the other end eventually tying things up once again. In order to emphasize how close things were, the Knicks and Heat were shooting identical field goal and three point percentages with 5:30 left in the game.
Brunson continued to feast leading the Knicks to a 12-3 run with just over four minutes remaining. With the Heat down three, they’d get burned on a layup that should have counted for Gabe Vincent after an errant miss by Caleb Martin. Still, Lowry and Bam would get Miami within one but a Josh Hart three and foul on Julius Randle created a lot of distance for the Heat to overcome. With Miami down six, they’d go to Vincent to create some more magic, but it didn’t take. But what did take, some Duncan Robinson magic to get the Heat back within three with 22 seconds remaining. A foul on Josh Hart would stretch the distanced to five and ultimately seal the deal on this one for the Knicks.
It was a gutsy and impressive performance, but the Heat needed Jimmy to close in those final minutes - hopefully he’ll be back on Saturday.
Not too long ago, because of my frustration with how inconsistently the team was playing, I was advocating trading Jimmy Butler (and everyone else over 30) and going into total rebuild mode. I no longer feel that way. I now realize any team with Jimmy Butler in the line-up is going to be competitive. That being said, there are changes that need to be made this summer. Any player who cannot play defense is expendable. The only thing keeping the Heat competitive these days is solid team (and individual) defense. I wonder what a Tyler Herro can get on the open market these days? I can think of several players the Heat can use instead at PG, PF or C. I'll leave my trade proposals for a later date.
Remember how LeBron and AD played against Bam in the 2020 finals. Teams have since learnt how to play against the Heat small by sending at least 2 players with minimum height of 6'9" to the paint against Bam. That takes me back to the big 3 era of LeBron,Wade and Bosh. Bosh was once blamed for lack luster efforts on the boards.His response was that it is difficult when you have to bang against a big body both on the offensive and defensive end, not to talk of when teams send in 2 or 3 big bodies into the paint. His response ended further criticism of him.