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Heat 100, Knicks 92: “Everyone on this team can honestly go except for Mitch”

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Come for the legend. Stay for the L.

NBA: Miami Heat at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The first time Dwyane Wade faced the Knicks in New York City was December 30, 2003. The number-one song that week was “Hey Ya!” by Outkast. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King topped the box office. The Knicks blew out the Heat 102-73 that night. with the rookie from Marquette starting and playing 39 minutes. He’d score just six points, same as the Knicks’ starting point guard that night, Frank Williams. Six assists for Wade. Seven for OG Frank.

The last time Dwyane Wade faced the Knicks at Madison Square Garden was last night. This time Miami defeated New York 100-92, with the 16-year vet scoring 16 points off the bench. History has been less kind to Mr. Williams than Mr. Wade, who heads into retirement feared and revered, even in corners of the world once renowned for their Heat hate.

Trust me when I say I did not come into this recap looking to focus on Wade. But this game was hardly drama at its finest. The plot was dime-a-dozen — an opponent in need of a win; a Knick team in need of an end to the now and an express train to the future — and the subplots were not exactly creating a Levitz paradigm. Last night was about one team honoring the past while competing for whatever scraps it can grab from the present, and the other, for the 76th time this season, asking us to kindly ignore the poop they keep stepping in on their way to a cleaner, brighter future.

Emmanuel Mudiay was good early. So was Kevin Knox.

Mitchell Robinson absolutely owned Goran Dragić when the rook got caught guarding the veteran all alone at the arc, keeping him in front and swatting his affront of an effort. On the Heat’s next possession Dion Waiters tried to take Mitch off the dribble at the hoop. The big man blocked that, too. Even Wade got sonned by the Son of Robin. The opening frame featured more three-pointers and and-ones than any other quarter this year, methinks. Happily, most of those came from the Knicks, and they lead this one early. For a while.

One reason for New York’s success was their passing. Not just their willingness to move the ball, but oftentimes making the pass ahead of the pass the defense was expecting, leading to open looks and defenders leaning the wrong way anticipating close-outs. In the first half the Knicks had 14 assists on 19 baskets. Wowsers! Kadeem Allen was probing, penetrating and defenestrating the D. Luke Kornet, who started at the four, hit four threes en route to 14 first-half points. Meanwhile, Waiters kept Miami within striking distance.

The Knicks entered the half up six and entered the third quarter intent on throwing the lead away. Literally. Just some glaringly awful passing, out of the blue, both in the blueprints and the execution; five turnovers in the opening four minutes. Neither team scored for the first few minutes. Eventually Dragić pulled the Heat pulled within two.

On the plus side, Mudiay kept on keeping on, opening up 6 of 8 from the field while getting to the line a dozen times.

Just like the Congolese Tease, Knox continued to tantalize.

Problem was, Waiters figured out that he wasn’t afraid to attack Robinson off the bounce, time after time. He had success with that. This was from the first half, but it’s pretty enough to forgo linearity, just between friends.

New York got up as many as nine in the third, but midway through the quarter Waiters gave Miami the advantage. In his first 26 minutes he scored 25 points. Dunno why this kept popping into my head every time he scored on Mitchell, but there it is.

Dennis Smith Jr. hit a couple of pull-ups late in the 3rd, if only to remind you he’s still on the team. Seriously: that was the first time I was aware of his presence. Entering the fourth quarter, it was all tied at 79.

David Fizdale played all the non-Ntilikina point guards together in the final frame, and maybe he should not have. While the Knicks went nearly half the quarter without a field goal, Wade and Hassan Whiteside keyed an 8-0 run to give the Heat all the separation they’d need.

Of course, the tao of Whiteside is that he both giveth and taketh away from his team’s success; it was his ill-advised technical that enabled the Knicks to finally break their duck and put points on the board. He had a right to complain: he went up for a shot while guarded by Robinson and it looked like Mitchell fouled him on the elbow as he was went into his shot, and the refs missed it. But you have to know — with as much as the Heat have at stake, on a night when Brooklyn, Detroit and Orlando, Miami’s competition for a playoff spot, all won — that you’re pitching a shutout against a team that’s teetering and accustomed to losing. Why give them a lift?

Then again, the Knicks were looking like between the third and fourth quarters they all got those Matrix injections in the back of their necks, only instead of learning kung-fu or how to fly a helicopter they were reminded how to be the 2019 Knicks. Mission accomplished. Damyean Dotson finished 0-for-the-night and failed to connect with Robinson on a two-on-one, throwing a lousy pass. Late in the fourth Dot had a couple openings for a corner three but wouldn’t pull the trigger. I understand being gun-shy when you’re missing everything, but you can’t quit shooting there. Not on this team; not now. If Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are Knicks next year, go ahead and hold up, Dot. But when you’re running with Lance Thomas and Mudiay as he slips from Gallant- to Goofus-mode (he’d miss his last four shots), you gotta keep chucking.

The evening’s low point: Whiteside grabbing a defensive rebound, jogging up the floor, getting to midcourt, realizing no one was in position to stop him, putting his hand up and racing 40 feet into the paint undisturbed, where he’d get a pass two feet from the hoop and register an and-one. Shit happens. I know shit happens. That shit shouldn’t happen, though.

The Knicks missed 10 of their first 11 shots in the fourth and with under four minutes to go had scored just four points. Meanwhile Whiteside went for 12 and 9 in just the final frame.

And so Wade would close his MSG career with a win. For the second time this year “Let’s Go Heat!” chants could be heard in MSG. Embarrassing? For sure. The most embarrassing thing to happen tonight? Nah. That’d be this.

Notes:

  • The two teams combined to miss 42 of 60 three-pointers. Earlier this afternoon the Mets scored 11 runs without a home run. Long balls are cool, but it’s dull watching every team swing for the fences. Here’s hoping the NBA realizes everybody jacking threes might make the most sense analytically, and yet there are living breathing warm-blooded mammals hoping to be entertained.
  • 9 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks for Robinson.
  • Dwyane Wade. What to make of his career? He was a craftsman. The world moved on, took to valuing roundhouses over jabs. But Wade remained a master of post-ups, spin moves, and the mid-range. You may live a long, long time and never see a better shot-blocking guard. Young Wade had a knack for finishing moves with a strength and athleticism you kinda forgot about. He didn’t have the lean length of Kobe or the comic-book build of LeBron. But you’d see him drive and jump as big men rose to contest and think there’s no way he’s gonna make it. And then...

Still, he’s a Heat icon. So this kind of shit from tonight is what I’ll always remember.

  • 40 minutes for Knox. Fizdale only played eight guys, and four starters played 35+ minutes. Make of it what you will. I’m running out of psychoanalysis.
  • I really do like DeAndre Jordan.

Meanwhile in Detroit, Portland’s Enes Kanter had 20 points, 15 rebounds and finished -8.

  • Mike Breen mentioned that Wade was never the highest-paid player on the Heat, as if that’s a badge of courage or something. Never forget: Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh all left money on the table to help the Heat build a team that’d go to four Finals in a row, or four times as many as they’d been to in their entire history before 2010, and that by the end of that run the Heat were cutting Mike Miller to save their billionaire owner a bit of luxury tax money, and that Wade spent a year-and-a-half in Chicago and Cleveland after Pat Riley refused to pony up a late-career payday for “Mr. Heat.”
  • Kornet kinda has a long skull. Also he put up 13 three-pointers. The eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks were cool, but I can’t get past all that skull and all them threes.
  • 10 points, 10 assists for Dragić, a favorite of mine for 10 years now. If you’re old enough to remember the Dragić/Sasha Vujačić blood feud, we can be friends.
  • Derrick Jones Jr. suffered bone bruises on his right knee earlier this year against the Knicks when Allonzo Trier fouled him on a breakaway. Tonight early in the second half Jones was pushing on a break when Mudiay gave a foul. It was nice to see Jones stay uninjured and in the game. Gotta think he has some post-traumatic stress from what back in January looked like a potentially devastating setback.
  • I don’t remember Patrick Ewing getting no farewell tour when he played in Orlando. I get that Wade is an all-time great, but it’s not like he had some rich tapestry of a history with the Knicks. I know, I know: you’ll point out Wade’s more highly regarded than Ewing was. I know it. That just rubs in my “Ewing is one of the more underrated NBA greats” complex even more.

Quoth LegionofBlue14: “Everyone on this team can honestly go except for Mitch.” Next game is Monday against a Chicago team intent on resting anyone on their roster with a pulse. So instead of Robinson being the one guy out of 8 or 10 worth watching, tune in to see him be the one guy out of 20 worth watching.