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Knicks 124, Heat 121: “I just like beating the Heat”

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Whaddya call a fake comeback that’s real? This.

NBA: Miami Heat at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The smell of a newborn baby. Sex, outside, on barely damp moss, as the sun sets. Vaporized lemon kush. The Knicks beating the Heat. Jobim. Some things never get old.

New York rode a 40-point fourth quarter to a 124-121 win over the Little South Beach That Could, snapping a five-game losing streak. Julius Randle returned for his first action since losing his grandmother and led the team with 26 points, part of a balanced breakfast that saw seven Knicks hit double-digits.

The first quarter had to be a record for most three-point plays in a single quarter by the Knicks, but after the Heat still led 31-27. This is worth mentioning because Miami entered this game 19-3 when leading after the first quarter and 10-0 after a loss. So in pulling this one out the Knicks bucked history like they was Truman and the Heat was Dewey. Truman would battle in the post, give you a lil’ Missouri spin on Marcus Smart, but he also killed a third of a million people with weapons that we otherwise recognize as criminal even for war, so I’m ranking him behind RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox, who both submitted entries for best-games-by-a-Knick-minor......ever?

Duncan Robinson is half a foot taller than Jason Williams was, but when I see a white dude wearing #55 for Miami launching bombs from a far removed place (like Truman), my heart plucks a bit for some of the nudge nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean, say no more, say no more?

Duncan hit a few three-pointers to create some breathing room for the Heat. Reggie Bullock knows to keep friends close and enemies closer; he ripped off 11 straight Knick points to make the game a game again. Midway through the third quarter there were “Let’s go Heat!” chants. Minutes later, “Let’s go Knicks!” could be heard, reactionary but still organic. Miami was up as many as 14, but New York was exceptionally protective of the ball, committing just five turnovers after the third, helping to keep the deficit from ballooning from “Sucks, but workable” to “Who we playing next?” Still, down double-digits entering the fourth, pragmatism said a stirring fake comeback was all one could hope for. Pragmatism is the friend who focuses your eyes straight ahead while stabbing you in the back.

Barrett did some of everything, on both ends, and he opened the fourth with a drive and dish to the foul-saddled Mitchell Robinson for a dunk. RJ drove in for what might have been his second breakaway of the night until he was hit from behind by James Johnson on what was ruled a flagrant one. I didn’t think it was that bad but I bet James Johnson reaps a lot of benefits in life from being “former MMA fighter James Johnson,” so he can reap some whirlwind, too. Kadeem Allen, who had the kind of quietly effective game Dennis Smith Jr. seems simultaneously overqualified and underqualified to have, played the pick-and-roll to perfection with Bobby Portis, resulting in a shooting foul that not only netted two points but helped put the Heat in the penalty with 10:12 left in the game.

The Knicks scored the first six points of the fourth, setting the stage for an A+ finish. They seemed to have no trouble all night getting in the paint, a trend that delivered late: Allen found Robinson in the pick-and-roll for a driving lay-up and-one; Kevin Knox cut backdoor and took the feed from Portis to cut the gap to four; Barrett took fellow rookie Tyler Herro into the post and converted a three-point play. Sandwiching all the interiority was Herro drilling deep threeballs to keep the Heat in front. The crowd started gasping when Herro launched from deep. I love the sound of that collective anxious “Ohhhh” before a great shooter lines up. This is rivaled in sports perhaps only by the whiplash sound baseball crowds emit when an opposing players crushes a no-doubt-about-it home run.

Back to the late-and-close scoring: Elfrid Payton fed Taj Gibson right under the rim for two, then Bullock flew in for the breakaway lay-in and followed that with a three. This all ended up meaning more than usual because the Knicks were hitting their foul shots way more than usual. A Kendrick Nunn three-pointer with 5:00 left put Miami up five; it’d climb to seven after Julius Randle pulled another “You’re not quite LeBron” moment when he almost had a tremendous chasedown block of a Jimmy Butler lay-up but instead goaltended.

Payton threw in a tosser to make it a one-possession game. Randle drove and made a nice dish to Gibson underneath, who laid it in as the shot clock expired; the Knicks were within one. Johnson took it at Randle, who stood his ground and stole the ball. Moments later on the other end, he hit his first fourth-quarter three-pointer of the season, giving the Knicks their first lead since the first half. Like a heavily-tattooed crab in a bucket, Johnson responded with a three, putting the Heat back in front one last time.

Jimmy Springfield threw up a one-handed push airball, whereas Randle drew contact and hit free throws and drove to the hoop and couldn’t be stopped. With under 30 seconds to go, Butler took a pass from Goran Dragić at the top of the arc and called for a pick from Bam Adebayo. Butler dribbled left past the pick and Bullock fought over it to contest. What happened next could not be settled between me and my fiancee or Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier. The officials called Bullock for fouling Butler on the three-point attempt. Mike Miller risked his last timeout appealing the call. It looked to me like Butler jumped to his right, making contact with the defender unavoidable. Mrs. Miranda, the refs and eventually Clyde thought Bullock was vertical but at the end of the sequence got his upper body in Butler’s way. The refs upheld the call.

The 82% free-throw shooter hit the first, then the second, then front-rimmed the third. Barrett nearly committed the rarely seen “five-second closely guarded violation” by rebounding the miss and then holding onto the ball for dear life after expecting to be fouled (to his credit; we like to see the young man want that pressure, especially given his early-season struggles at the line) but not being fouled for a while (he’ll need to learn for next time to dribble or something; opportunistic teams will force him into turnovers or jump balls if he’s waiting for contact that never comes). After hitting his first six free throws, Barrett missed the first, then hit the second.

Butler drove to the iron, but some good ol’ red-blooded rim protection by Gibson forced a miss. The Heat retained possession and Butler drove again, but this time he turned it over trying to dump it off to Adebayo. Barrett was fouled and hit the first but missed the second. With half a second left, Miami inbounded to Adebayo, who hit a wild falling-away deep three that was clearly after the final buzzer.

A win is always good, and a comeback is always an especially tasty cut of win, and a comeback over a clearly superior team is still good even as leftovers, and beating the Heat anywhere, anytime is the everlasting gobstopper as tastes of victory go.

Notes:

  • Mitch, Portis and Damyean Dotson each scored one basket. Every other Knick who played scored 10+ points.
  • The Knicks shot 64% on two-pointers and 82% from the charity stripe. That’s how you get outscored by 15 from deep and still win.
  • Kadeem was quietly effective all night. Life comes at you fast: in the 2017 draft Allen was a reach, taken 53rd by Boston. That same night, Dallas had the giddiness of a guilty person getting away with something when Dennis Smith Jr. fell to them at #9. Now I feel if I asked Knick fans who they’d rather see get 18 minutes a night the rest of the year, Allen might win.

Poll

Who would you rather see play 18 minutes a night the rest of this season?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Dennis Smith Jr.
    (106 votes)
  • 65%
    Kadeem Allen
    (383 votes)
  • 16%
    Still waiting on Frank Williams
    (94 votes)
583 votes total Vote Now
  • Heady days for New York’s teenage dream.

If you watch RJ through the end of the clip, after the wrong-footed off-hand dunk he looks at his right hand like they’ve shared some trauma, some disassociative fugue schism. I love it.

  • Care of LatvianPrankster in the game thread:

Important to remember: the Knick kids will still be young six years from now. Just wait a while, yo. Don’t force an opinion and just. Wait.

  • Does any stat measure how many points Mitch creates for teammates to score off pick-and-rolls? Kadeem tonight and Frank Ntilikina in prior games are taking advantage with more and more of easy runners available because both defenders are worried about The Lobness Monster.
  • A week ago against the Clippers, Mitch had Lou Williams behind him under the rim, with no help, but when he got the entry pass he brought it low and was stripped. Yesterday he had Butler on his back in the restricted area and ended up whistled for a three-second violation. Are Robinson’s teammates failing to recognize mismatches? Or is Mitch needing to do more to establish himself as something beyond a lob threat?
  • The Heat’s first basket was a three-pointer that came from Payton being too helpful. Elf left Meyers Lemon Leonard in the corner to show at a cutting Butler, who Randle had already accounted for. Leonard ended up canning the corner three.

In the third, the same sequence occurred, this time with Derrick Jones Jr. in Leonard’s corner spot and Randle playing the Gladys Kravitz role Payton had earlier in the game.

Frazier said the Knicks have been giving up too many open threes because of a lack of focus. I dunno, man. I think of classes I’ve taught where a student is frizzled and failing not because they’re not focused, but because they’re anxious or too eager to perform. I hope to live long enough to see the hoary old “failing defense = laziness or apathy” trope rust and fade, its legacy forgotten.

  • MSG — the arena and the television network — shared a baby pic of Kevin Knox in a Spiderman costume and it was sooo adorable. Just for that I’m not trading him.
  • Mike Breen can’t get enough of Mike Miller’s line about long bus rides after games he coached at Texas State, and how his lone job was “to stay awake to make sure the bus driver doesn’t fall asleep at the wheel.” It’s cute to hear how much he enjoys that tale.
  • This was the first time the Knicks’ snapped a five-game losing streak since 13 months ago. This may ring a bell:

Quoth Real Clydes Wear Plaid: “I just like beating the Heat.” Hush, honey.

That last one is getting the next P&T Retro Recap treatment. Until then, let this one get deep into your lungs. Next game is Tuesday at Milwaukee. All right, yeah. Def hold onto this one for a bit.