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Heat 109, Knicks 103: “If Rose takes minutes from Payton and Rivers I’m okay with it.”

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Tough loss to the defending Eastern Conference champs.

Miami Heat v New York Knicks
Somehow, this is one of Getty’s photos from the game.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Sunday’s big game was close throughout, but in the end it was the team hailing from Florida that took home the victory.

That’s right, the Miami Heat outlasted the Knicks, 109-103, in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden that served as the most important sporting event of the day by far, no questions asked. The loss broke a two-game win streak for New York, and the game was played amid rumors that the franchise is about to flip Dennis Smith Jr. and a 2021 second round draft pick for Derrick Rose.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the alleged acquisition of Rose, but the bottom line is this: if the deal goes down as currently reported, it means the Knicks essentially traded Kristaps Porzingis for the youngest MVP in NBA history.

Back to the most important ball-related matter of the day, though. The Knicks played basketball on Sunday, and they competed for almost 48 minutes (there was a brief slip-up in the waning minute of the fourth where they appeared to give up, remembered Tom Thibodeau is the coach, and swiftly raced to foul Miami to try and make it seem like they hadn’t quit). The Heat have struggled a bit to start the season, but they are finally healthy and shouldn’t be viewed as anything but an extremely challenging opponent.

Although the Knicks were unable to beat the Heat, they once again put forth a valiant effort. No one likes a moral victory, and there was actually a lot to be disgruntled with on Sunday. But the Knicks and Heat were kind of evenly matched for most of the afternoon and New York put up a fight until the very end, so you can choose to take or not take the moral victory, but it’s there if you want it.

Bam Adebayo opened things with an easy slam dunk, but Julius Randle quickly answered with a jumper, and from the get-go the Knicks made it clear they weren’t going to roll over. Reggie Bullock seemed particularly motivated to drench the Heat in raindrops, pouring in four threes in the first period. He’s only hit four threes in a game two other times all season.

Randle, who had himself another incredible performance (26 points on 10-18 shooting, 13 rebounds and 7 assists), continued to display remarkably improved passing vision. Randle scored the first points of the game for the Knicks, but mostly looked to get his teammates going in the opening period. He finished the quarter with 2 points, 7 boards and 4 times.

The Knicks have been getting off to pretty good starts, despite growing frustration from fans who yearn for Immanuel Quickley to elevate the offense with his spectacular shooting. At one point in the first quarter, Kenny Albert asked Walt Clyde Frazier what he thought of the rumored trade for Derrick Rose. The following is a paraphrasing of Clyde’s response:

“Uhhh, I don’t know, Kenny, because Payton is playing well now, you have Quickley and Ntilikina …. I’m somewhat surprised.”

Same, Walt. Same. At the end of the first, it was 25-23 Miami, and as has become normal, the Knicks looked like they had a chance. Although it was concerning that RJ Barrett wasn’t yet on the board.

The second quarter wasn’t looking too great until Randle, suddenly and out of nowhere, went NBA Jam “He’s on fire!” all over everyone.

Randle finished the quarter with 13 points, including two late threes. If Mark Jackson was announcing, he would have said “that’s a bad man.” And now a moment of silence as we thank the heavens that the Knicks went with Thibs instead of Jackson. That might sound silly now, but the idea of Jackson being hired to replace Mike Miller wasn’t out of the question this time last year.

At the half, the Knicks were down 60-59, and Walt Clyde, like all of us at home, was openly wondering whether New York could keep up the pace on the second day of a back to back. Close game, right? It’s fine that Barrett still hasn’t scored.

The third quarter featured more feasting from Randle. His offensive arsenal is amazing. He’s a crafty beast, man.

Midway through the third, Barrett finally got on the board with a three to give the Knicks a 69-66 lead. Both teams looked a little tired in the third, and there was a frustrating lack of IQ. Sometimes Thibs is too strict with his rotations, and that’s not coming from someone who is biased and thinks he’s smarter than the man who gets paid millions of dollars to coach at the highest possible level.

The Heat won the third by a total of 22-18, the showdown was set with Miami up 82-77. Even with Quickley in the game, the Knicks started to look a little stagnant on offense. Perhaps it was tired legs. The Heat grabbed the lead, the Knicks wrestled the score a little closer, and on and on the fourth quarter went. With the Knicks down by two and a little over five minutes to play, Payton checked back in and tied it at 92 with a floater. It was IQ-esque. On the very next play, he missed a jumper that could have given the Knicks the lead.

With three minutes to go, the Heat were forced to call timeout after Quickley lobbed it to Mitch, who lovingly ooped the rookie’s alley to bring the Knicks back within two.

The Heat controlled the last few minutes, as the Knicks desperately tried to claw their way back but simply couldn’t break through. When all was said and done, the Heat claimed the 109-103 victory. The Knicks are now 11-14, which is better than was originally expected heading into the season. So that’s cool.

Notes:

> RJ Barrett only played 19 minutes, shooting 1-6 and generally looking out of sorts. He’s been playing really well lately, so it was tough to see him struggle. But RJ will be okay. Thibs wanted to win the game, and today Barrett wasn’t the guy.

> Mitchell Robinson had 5 fouls for just the second time this season. He has yet to foul out. Mitch had 6 points, 7 boards and 1 block. His blocks might be down this year (1.6 per game after averaging at least 2 in each of his first two seasons), but he’s sacrificing blocks for fouls and can therefore be on the court more. #Maturity. He also unleashed his crossover.

> Speaking of things guys don’t usually do, Taj Gibson nailed a corner three.

> Quickley almost floated a three. He should have gone through with the shot.

Shoot the J. Shoot it.

‘Twas a tough loss, but the Knicks continue to look like a legitimate basketball team that could compete for the playoffs. It seems like the roster is set for a shakeup, but Frank Ntilikina has survived another day. As Moshe52792 said in the comments, “if Rose takes minutes from Payton and Rivers, I’m okay with it.”

The Knicks play again on Tuesday against the Heat in Miami. Revenge. Enjoy the football match, everyone!