With the long shadow of Willis Reed looming large over the proceedings, the New York Knicks (42-32) lost to the Miami Heat (40-34) on Wednesday, 127-120.
Tonight’s game in the Miami-Dade Arena had playoff implications, with the Knicks, Nets, and Heat all jockeying for fifth, sixth, and seventh seeds of the Eastern Conference. The Knicks had Miami’s number so far this season, leading their season series 2-0. With tonight’s win, the Heat got their revenge.
The telecast began on a somber note, with Mike Breen asking Walt “Clyde” Frazier about Willis Reed, who passed on Tuesday. As ever, Clyde exuded class when speaking about his deep affection and respect for the beloved Reed, known as The Captain and Clyde’s teammate during the Knicks’ glory years.
So much respect for The Captain. pic.twitter.com/Fq0izOf5tn— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 22, 2023
The Knicks wore black bands on their uniforms in honor of the seven-time All-Star and will add a commemorative patch soon.
Knicks-Heat games are always competitive. The Knicks started the game shooting well, including an encouraging three from Quentin Grimes, and a gorgeous runner by Brunson.
Before the game, the Heat had the league’s 25th-ranked offense. Coulda fooled me. They quickly caught up with an 11-2 run and were up 20-14 when Tom Thibodeau called a timeout to stave the bleeding. Post-timeout, the Knicks rattled off six straight, and they appeared to be ready to go blow-for-blow in this one.
Guard Gabe Vincent was a pest early, canning his first three three-point attempts. For New York, Jalen Brunson started out strong with nine first-quarter points. Immanuel Quickley provided his usual spark from the bench, drilling a trey and then stealing an unwise pass on the opposite end.
He may be gray, but Kevin Love started for the Heat and can still do this:
Kevin Love with an absolute dime downcourt pic.twitter.com/m79RwD0Tzy— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 22, 2023
To close the quarter, New York was up 32-31 and had won the rebound battle 13-6 (with six O-Boards to Miami’s zilch).
RJ Barrett rolled with the reserves to start the second quarter. They came out sloppy but tightened things up with Josh Hart taking charge. His first shot was a three-pointer; a good sign, given that he didn’t attempt a trey in 31 minutes on Monday against Minnesota. He also Joe-Montana’d a pass from end to end to assist Barrett on an easy stuff, before cleanly blocking a Kyle Lowry lay-up attempt. Josh wasn’t going to let go of the rope.
QB3 showin' off the vision for 9️⃣ @joshhart @RjBarrett6 pic.twitter.com/PbDr72u3OA— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 23, 2023
As Breen and Frazier remarked often tonight, Miami rates last in the league for field goal percentage. You wouldn’t believe it watching this game. In the first half, they shot 55% from the field and 53% from deep, compared to New York’s 48% from the floor and 35% from downtown.
Superior rebounding kept the Knicks alive through the first two frames. The game was close throughout the first half, though the Heat briefly stretched their advantage to nine with two minutes left before intermission. Brunson struggled to protect the ball through the first 24, committing three of the Knicks’ first seven turnovers. RJ Barrett contributed 10 points for the half on 4-for-6 shooting. For Miami, Vincent continued his hot shooting, racking up 15 points on 6-for-9 from the floor, and Jimmy Butler added a tidy 16.
Coming off a 57-point performance on Monday, Julius Randle gave us this pretty highlight:
AYO JULIUS WITH EMPHASIS pic.twitter.com/e1NvximQhM— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 23, 2023
By Halftime, the Heat were up 64-61.
Miami kept up their unexpected shooting through the third quarter. Not to be outdone, Quentin Grimes splashed three three-pointers early in the frame. Of late, he seemed to be in a sophomore slump, but he finished with 22 points, while shooting 7-for-12 from the field, 6-for-10 from deep.
QDOT ON FIRE 5-for-7 from 3️⃣@qdotgrimes with 19 PTS and counting... pic.twitter.com/yubeiyWWDB— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) March 23, 2023
The Heat targeted Brunson tonight, with Butler and Vincent exploiting his defensive shortcomings. At times, it seemed to rattle him on both ends, and he surrendered the ball five times overall. Randle, too, was scatterbrained. He committed an offensive foul on a bricked dunk attempt, clotheslining Love en route to the rim, and his continued protest afterward led to another technical foul. That freebie put the Heat up by 11, their largest lead by that point.
With the game slipping away, Hart checked in and brought a needed focus. He, Randle, and Brunson all scored to round out the frame, closing their deficit by six heading into the fourth.
Thibs sent out Quickley, RJ, Hart, Obi Toppin, and Robinson to start the final frame. They sliced into the lead, and when Hart hit Robinson on a driving alley-oop, the Knicks regained the lead.
It wouldn’t last. Two Strus threes, two Bam free throws, a lucky bounce for Lowry, and a Herro trey put the Heat up by nine with 4:35 to go. Thibs called for time. If New York simply exchanged baskets down the stretch, victory was unlikely. Defense was needed. It wasn’t coming.
Instead, after the timeout, Randle committed an obvious charge, and Tyler Herro drained a three. With the Heat up by 12 and under four minutes on the clock, the curtain was mostly drawn. RJ hit two free throws, Brunson stole an inbound pass, and RJ went to the line for two more freebies that cut the deficit to eight. However, the two clubs traded hoops—including another three-pointer from Grimes—and despite a few glimmers of hope, New York just couldn’t close the gap.
- The Knicks’s all-time record against the Heat is 68-65. Sure seems like they have played more often than that, doesn’t it?
- The Heat came into tonight as a 34% three-point shooting team that averages 109 points per game. Tonight they went 16-of-28 for 57%.
- With three blocks tonight, Mitchell Robinson passed Marvin Webster (542) and tied Bill Cartwright (543) on the list of Knicks shot blockers. The top shot-blocking Knick? The big fella, Patrick Ewing, with 2758.
- Quickley’s been in a shooting slump. Over the last three games, he’s shot 4-for-22 from deep, including 1-for-8 tonight. Not many players can misfire that badly and still be a net positive.
- RJ Barrett finished 8-for-13 from the floor, 3-of-6 from deep for 26 points, and none of it felt like stat-padding. He’s played better over these last three games.
- On the broadcast, Clyde told the story about the first time he arrived in New York as a Knick. Reed was an hour late picking him up, but “got me a date” and it “was like something out of a movie.” Breen was excited to hear more details, but Clyde, always so fly, will never kiss and tell.
- Reed’s was the first number raised to the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Who on the current roster has the best chance of having his number retired?
Quoth Herbert Pollack: “55% from 3 for the worst 3 point shooting team.” Indeed. On to Orlando for a game against the Magic tomorrow, and the Knicks will get another shot at Miami next Wednesday in NYC. Sleep tight, ’Bocker backers.