Feeling the Heat, Knicks Drop Game 1

AP Photo/John Minchillo

The Miami Heat outsmarted the Knicks and have a leg up in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Jimmy Butler scored 25 points and was the best player on the floor while gutting it out after injuring his ankle in the fourth quarter as the Heat scored a 108-101 win over the Knicks at a disappointed Madison Square Garden, Sunday afternoon.

The Knicks were without Julius Randle and it showed in the second half, but Miami is missing Tyler Herro, who usually torches the Knicks and also Victor Oladipo.

Miami made the right adjustments at halftime after the Knicks had a decided 40-20 advantage in points in the paint.The Heat collapsed in the paint in the second half and dared the Knicks to beat them from the outside.

The Knicks were held to 22 points in the paint in the second half and they could not counter the strategy as they were awful from beyond the arc (7/34, 21%), while Miami was 13/39 (33%).

Kyle Lowry came off the bench to score 18 points, including 9 in the fourth quarter, with 5 rebounds, 6 assists. Lowry gave a clinic in basketball I-Q with some astute plays down the stretch and demoralized the Knicks with a couple of clutch shots from long range.

Gabe Vincent scored 20 points and made five-3 pt’ers while Bam Adebayo had 16 points, eight rebounds and committed just one personal foul.

R.J. Barrett scored a team high 26 points, with 9 rebounds and 7 assists but, like the rest of his teammates, he made a couple of key mistakes in the fourth quarter.

Obi Toppin started in place of Randle and scored 18 points with 8 rebounds. Toppin had the best success from three as he led the Knicks with four made shots from three point range, but he also took 11 three point shots.

Jalen Brunson had 25 points but was 0 for 7 from three and had five turnovers. Early in the fourth quarter, Brunson made a play that typified how the game went for the Knicks. Brunson was driving to the hoop when he made an unforced error and turned the ball over.

They’re gonna make him work but that’s what he faces every game,” Coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He didn’t make his threes, for the most part, I thought they were great looks.”

The Knicks felt that they didn’t get the benefit of the foul calls and that frustration boiled over late in the third quarter when Brunson, who usually keeps his cool, was called for a technical. Miami was 23 of 29 from the line while the Knicks were 12 of 20. “Want to take a look at the film. Seemed like there was a lot of contact that we didn’t get,” said Thibodeau.

Miami benefitted from the Knicks’ failures from beyond the arc, while “suckering” the Knicks to commit fouls in situations where a foul was just not a smart play.

The Knicks had a five point lead at halftime but it could’ve been more as Miami was hanging around thanks to Lowry. With the Knicks leading 53-45 and a chance to extend the lead, Lowry blocked Josh Hart’s lay up and then hit a three to make it a five point game.

It turned out to be a key sequence because it gave Miami some momentum heading to halftime. “We didn’t close the second quarter well, third quarter we didn’t protect the basket the first few minutes,” Thibodeau said. “Fought back got it to a one possession game, obviously we’re gonna have to shoot the ball better than we did tonight.”

The Knicks were leading 61-53 when the Heat went on an 10-0 run to take a 63-61 lead on Kevin Love’s outlet pass that led to a lay up by Max Strus.

Love resembled Hall of Famer Wes Unseld Sr. with three long, outlet passes that let to Miami baskets. The third one was a pass that Jets QB Aaron Rodgers (who was courtside) could relate to as Love found Butler, who outjumped Toppin for the ball and then converted a lay up to make it a 74-66 Heat lead with 5:30 left in the third quarter.

The Knicks trailed by six after three but Miami took a nine point lead in the fourth quarter after Brunson’s unforced turnover led to an Adebayo dunk and an 87-78 advantage.

Miami was leading 91-85 when Duncan Robinson missed a three point attempt, but Barrett was beaten by Butler for an offensive rebound that drew a foul call. Butler hit two free throws to give Miami a 93-85 lead with less than eight minutes left.

With less than five minutes left, Brunson’s floater made it a 97-94 Heat lead but after Lowry missed, Robinson had the rebound stolen by the veteran guard. That turnover led to a Vincent three to put Miami up 100-94.

The Knicks trailed 104-94 with 91 seconds left when Robinson was open underneath for a dunk, but Lowry smartly fouled him and sent a poor free throw shooter to the line, instead of letting him score easily. Robinson missed both and it was just an example of Lowry’s smarts and experience that was a factor in Miami winning game one.

I’ve been watching Kyle Lowry a long time, playing with the Raptors, I’ve been watching him growing up so. He’s a guy that’s gonna be getting strips and steals, things of that nature,” said Barrett, who had two of his shots blocked by the veteran guard. “I gotta watch the film and see how I can be better personally. Gotta take care of the ball. I feel like I was a part of what cost us today.”

With a little over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Hart accidentally stepped on Butler, causing him to twist his ankle. Miami took a time out and Butler went to the line to make two free throws. “Playing defense, obviously there was a collision, and unfortunately he turned his ankle,” Hart said.

It was thought that maybe Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra would pull Butler with the lead but the gutsy forward stayed in until 23 seconds remained and the game was in Miami’s control.

As has been his wont, Brunson held himself accountable for the loss. “They [Miami] had key moments in the game where we needed to be strong and that starts with me. Very uncharsteristic by me, this one’s on me. I gotta be better, go from there,” he said.

For the first time in this post season, the Knicks find themselves down in a series. The Heat made game one adjustments at half time so it’s the Knicks’ move going to game two on Tuesday night.

It’s the best of seven, we lost this one but we just gotta get back to the film, see the mistakes that we had and fix ‘em,” Toppin said.

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