It was what it hadn’t been between these teams for a while: Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks with meaning.
With the Heat entering with a two-game lead over the Knicks for the sixth and final automatic playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, it might not exactly have rekindled memories of Jeff Van Gundy hanging on Alonzo Mourning’s leg, or P.J. Brown turning Charlie Ward into a ragdoll during Pat Riley’s Heat coaching heyday, but the implications were real.
And ultimately painful for the Heat in their 106-104 loss Thursday night at Madison Square Garden,
“We put ourselves in position,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
That the Heat did, falling short when guard Tyler Herro was off on a 3-point attempt with five-tenths of a second to play.
“I thought it was a good look,” Herro said.
In falling in the first of the teams’ four meetings this season, the Heat dropped to 1-2 on this four-game trip that concludes with an even tougher test Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Even with the Knicks lacking guard Jalen Brunson, who called in sick, the Heat were unable to muster enough to offset 30 points from R,J. Barrett and 23 from Julius Randle.
The Heat got 32 points from Bam Adebayo and 25 from Herro, but only 10 from Jimmy Butler, who shot 5 of 13. The Heat also got 17 points from Max Strus.
Adebayo was named an All-Star a half hour before tipoff.
“It’s good to be back in the All-Star Game, but I’m kind of bummed,” Adebayo said of the night ending with a loss.
Five Degrees of Heat from Thursday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat fell behind by 13 early before closing within 28-22 at the end of the first quarter, then down 51-48 at halftime.
A wild third period opened with an 11-0 New York run, before the Heat stormed back with a 19-2 surge, only to see the Knicks take a 77-72 lead into the fourth.
The Knicks then led to 11, before Butler returned with 7:12 to play. A 10-2 run sparked by Herro then drew the Heat within 94-91 with 3:40 left.
A pivotal moment then came with 1:22 to play, with a layup by Barrett ruled good upon replay of a goaltend call on the Heat, putting New York up 102-97. A Herro basket followed to bring the Heat within 102-99 with 1:11 left.
From there, Adebayo came up with a steal and converted both free throws to bring the Heat within 102-101 with 52.8 left.
A wild sequence that featured a dunk by the Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein and a Hartenstein steal followed, putting the Knicks up 106-101 with 5.2 seconds left, with a Strus 3-pointer making it 106-104 with 2.9 seconds left.
With 2.1 seconds left, the Heat won a challenge of a foul called on Adebayo, putting them in possession with 2.1 seconds to play down two.
The Heat then used their final timeout to advance the ball to midcourt, the game ending when Herro was off on his open corner 3-point attempt.
“That’s the DNA of our group,” Spoelstra said. “We’re going to fight, for sure.”
2. Attack mode: For all the success with his feathery lane jumper this season, Adebayo said earlier this week that he also wanted to play with the type of aggression that would get him to the foul line.
He did just that with a blow-by dunk in the second period that punished the too-late help of long-time Heat nemesis Evan Fournier.
Adebayo then got back to his jumper game to keep the Heat competitive to the finish.
He closed 10 of 11 from the line, with the rest of the roster 3 of 5.
“We’re just a better basketball team offensively when Bam and Jimmy are attacking,” Spoelstra said, with Butler missing his lone free-throw attempt.
“Bam was able to do that tonight.”
3. A Strus revival: Uneven this season, Strus this time was 3 of 4 on 3-pointers in the first half, with the rest of the roster 2 of 11 over the opening two periods.
With Victor Oladipo out with an ankle sprain, Strus played as the Heat’s first wing off the bench.
“When we find Max in rhythm,” Spoelstra said, “he’s a great shooter, and the numbers still support that.”
Strus closed 5 of 9 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers.
It was such a mix-and-match night for Spoelstra that the Heat closed the third period with a lineup of Udonis Haslem, Haywood Highsmith, Gabe Vincent, Strus and Herro.
Highsmith had not appeared in the previous two games.
“He’s the next guy,” Spoelstra said of Highsmith. “Vic was out. There’s no hesitation with that.”
4. Dedmon bypassed: With undrafted rookie Orlando Robinson out with the thumb fracture sustained in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s victory in Cleveland, 42-year-old captain Haslem played as reserve center ahead of Dewayne Dedmon.
It was Haslem’s first appearance since Dec. 15 against the Houston Rockets, and just his sixth game of the season, having played 37 total minutes entering Thursday.
“I actually intended on playing both of them tonight,” Spoelstra said of Haslem and Dedmon, “but since it was Heat and Knicks, it was just very fitting that I played UD. And he gave us some good minutes.”
In a turn-back-the-clock moment, Haslem’s initial stint included drawing a charge, with the Heat in their throwback uniforms. He closed scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting with two rebounds in his 10:23.
“When your name is called, you’ve got to step up,” Haslem said. “It’s small minutes, but you never know what impact you can have on the game.”
Dedmon has not played since he was suspended one game by the Heat for conduct detrimental to the team after words with Spoelstra during the Jan. 10 home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
5. Oladipo out: With Oladipo out due to an ankle sprain sustained against the Cavaliers, Strus played as the Heat’s first wing off the bench.
Spoelstra said Oladipo’s ankle became more of a concern in the wake of Tuesday night’s victory in Cleveland.
“He was able to finish the game, but it’s a sprained ankle,” Spoelstra said. “Once you fly and wake up the next day, sometimes it can swell up on you. We’ll manage it.”
Oladipo was ruled out midafternoon.
“We’ll just evaluate him day to day,” Spoelstra said.
Oladipo has struggled in recent games, including five points on 2-of-9 shooting Tuesday in Cleveland.
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