Heat blow past Knicks 105-86, take 2-1 series lead
Neither team shot the ball wall, but it was Miami who was the more physically dominant team in the end.
The Miami Heat cruised to a 105-86 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals over the New York Knicks Saturday, taking a 2-1 series lead.
In his return, Jimmy Butler, who played 36 minutes, finished with 28 points on 9-of-21 shooting. Max Strus had one of his best games these playoffs, adding 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting — 3-of-8 from distance — in 24 minutes.
Bam Adebayo was outstanding on both ends of the floor (especially against Randle) and recorded yet another double-double, his third of the playoffs. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting. Kyle Lowry had 14 points, four assists and three rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting.
Miami shot 38.9 percent and 7-of-32 (21.9 percent) from deep; the Knicks, on the other hand, shot 34.1 percent from deep and 20.0 percent (8-40) from deep. Both teams finished with 13 turnovers apiece, while the Heat finished a plus-two on the glass (50-48) and plus-12 on free-throw makes on 16 additional attempts.
Jalen Brunson posted a team-most 20 points, while Julius Randle (10 points, 14 rebounds) and Josh Hart (15 points, 12 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles of their own. RJ Barrett totaled 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
The Knicks’ starters — Barrett, Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Josh Hart and Brunson — combined to shoot 22-for-65 (33.8 percent), including 4-of-23 (17.4 percent) from 3-point range.
The Heat raced out to an early 19-8 after a Kevin Love touchdown to Max Strus. The Knicks trimmed the advantage to eight by the end of the quarter, but Miami responded with a 15-4 run … without Butler or Adebayo. The lineup Erik Spoelstra opted to use was Lowry-Martin-Robinson-Highsmith-Zeller, upping that opened more transition and semi-transition opportunities, buoying its advantage to as large as 19.
Despite hitting a wall midway through the second quarter, the Heat entered halftime up 58-44. Miami shot 39.6 percent and 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) from 3-point range, but the Knicks were a porous 34.0 percent from the floor and 2-of-16 from deep. New York was also 4-of-25 outside of the paint in the first half.
Butler re-tweaked his ankle after stumbling on a drive in the third quarter, but stayed in the game for the remainder of the quarter as they entered the final period up 17.
That included a scuffle between Zeller and Randle with two minutes left, which resulted in Butler dancing after the fact. Miami’s 22-point fourth-quarter lead was quickly lowered to 13 with 4:23, but the lead would never crease into single-digit territory — giving Miami the series lead heading into Game 4 Monday.
Also from IW today:
To blame Bam Adebayo is wrong. He is not a center. He is a power forward. He does not like pounding underneath. He wants to be outside, guarding guards. – Robert, Coconut Creek.
A: But I’m not sure that Bam Adebayo is a power forward in today’s game, where power forwards are shooting 3-pointers and playing a highly athletic game off the dribble. It doesn’t matter as much how you designate Bam positionally as it does who is playing alongside. He seemed at his best when playing alongside muscle up front, such as a P.J. Tucker, or length, such as a Kelly Olynyk. But at the moment, the alignment with Kevin Love appears to be working. And with Kevin defending opposing centers (Brook Lopez, Mitchell Robinson), Bam effectively is being cast at power forward, anyway.
Ira, are we seeing if Tyler Herro is expendable. In other words, is what we are seeing from Max Strus, Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent revealing what we knew all along about needing a defensive upgrade? – J.V., Tampa.
A: I appreciate where you are trying to go with that, that if the Heat can win in the playoffs, and sustain playoff success, in the absence of Tyler Herro, that his money could perhaps be better spent otherwise. But it is way, way, way too early for any of that. Yes, you probably could lock in Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin (already locked in next season at $6.8 million) combined for less than the $27 million that Tyler will earn next season. But this league is about individual stars, and Tyler still has such potential. So, yes, if there is eventually a parade down Biscayne Boulevard, perhaps you could consider such math. But at the moment the Heat still need three more wins to get out of this round, plus eight more postseason wins thereafter for a ring thing. For the moment, let’s live in the moment.