The Miami Heat came out with energy and defense that the Knicks did not match — and Miami clobbered the Knicks early en route to an easy 105-86 win in Game 3 of the best-of-7 series, on a Saturday afternoon.
The Knicks came out tentative against Miami’s defense, enabling the Heat to jump out to a 19-8 lead. Playing free and easy and with confidence, Miami pushed the lead to 41-23 early in the 2nd quarter.
The Knicks finally gained their footing and fought back — pulling to within 12 before the half. NY and RJ Barrett started strong in the 3rd — pulling to within 11 — but Jimmy Butler and Max Strus countered and Miami was back up 18 just like that. NY trailed by 18-20 points for most of the 4th — they just could not get anything going from 3 — going 8-40.
“The start of the game, we got back on our heels,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “Their aggressiveness. The ball in the paint. You gotta read the game. We couldn’t get stops early, so we couldn’t get any easy buckets. So — you pay the price.”
1. Heat Came Out Hot — with Energy and Defense
Miami came out with aggressiveness on defense and on offense.
Strus did a little bit of everything tonight to help us get the win. 👌 pic.twitter.com/B4cca1nL7Y
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 6, 2023
The Knicks seemed to be timid to the moment — trying too hard to not make a mistake, and therefore making mistakes. Miami’s defense had something to do with that.
“The first half we turned the ball over and gave up easy buckets in transition,” noted Thibs afterwards.
Credit Eric Spoelstra — one of the best coaches in the game, and a match for Thibs; why some (like us) have predicted that the winner of this series goes to the finals and could win it all.
“It’s tough enough to beat the Heat with Jimmy Butler back but when you give Erik Spoelstra a few days to game plan, huge problems,” said NBA analyst Ross Kreines on Twitter. “Erik makes great adjustments, utilizes his players’ strengths while taking away your strengths, use of bench and always gives the Heat a chance to win.”
2. Knicks Got their Footing in 2nd Quarter
Miami playing free and easy moved the lead to 18 points early in the 2nd quarter. The Knicks were not hitting 3’s, and not passing cohesively.
The Knicks started to gain their confidence and footing and started to eat into the Miami lead — Jalen Brunson started penetrating and hitting floaters, Immanuel Quickley started getting buckets, and Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes added to the offense.
Keep going JB! pic.twitter.com/XL5pRR8Ago
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 6, 2023
When Quickley hit a 3 with 3 minutes left in the half, NY was down by 10.
Miami pushed back — and led by 14 at the half.
3. Barrett Led Knicks at Start of 3rd
RJ Barrett came on strong at the start of the 3rd and NY pulled back within 11.
RJ in attack mode 😤 pic.twitter.com/oedUG45ANH
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 6, 2023
But Jimmy Butler and Strus and Adebayo countered and in minutes Miami was back up by 18.
“We got it down to 10 a couple of times but then we could never get that next one,” said Thibs. “And they played from a lead the whole game. You give a team a cushion it’s hard. Every time we seemed to have a crack to getting back into it we didn’t make the next one.”
4. Knicks D Was Good; Offense Not Good
Despite the 18-point loss, the end-of-game stats did not give Miami a big advantage:
- Miami had 50 rebounds; NY had 48
- Miami shot 7-32 from 3; NY shot 8-40 from 3
- Miami shot 38 percent from the floor; NY shot 32 percent from the floor
- Both teams had 13 turnovers
- Miami was 28-31 in free throws; NY was 16-22 in free throws
Thibodeau thought the Knick defense did well enough; it was the offense that sputtered.
“Defensively — they’re in the 30’s, in the 20’s from 3 — 105 — but offensively we need to do better.”
“This team was averaging 125 — so 105… but offensively we need energy too, and we need to trust the pass. When we trust the pass we’ll create good shots. And credit to them, they played great defense.”
“You have to create space first, and then create rhythm,” added Thibs. “And you gotta make some shots, and we didn’t do that.”
- Julius Randle could not get tracked offensively but did finish with 14 rebounds — he was 4-15 (0-5 from 3) for 10 points.
- Jimmy Butler — guarded by Josh Hart throughout the evening — had 28 points on 9-21 shooting, and 10-11 from the free throw line.
- The Knicks limited Gabe Vincent to 5 points on 1-8 shooting (0-4 from 3) but Max Strus hurt them instead, scoring 19 pts on 7-14 shooting (3-10 from 3).
- Jalen Brunson had 20 points on 7-20 shooting (0-5 from 3) with 6 rebounds and 8 assists.
- Josh Hart had 15 pts on 5-12 shooting (2-6 from 3) with 12 rebounds.
- RJ Barrett had 14 points on 5-16 shooting (2-7 from 3; 2-3 in free throws and a horrific -32.
- Mitchell Robinson only played 14 minutes and had 5 rebounds and 2 points. Isaiah Hartenstein played 26 minutes with 3 rebounds and 0 points. That only amounted to 40 minutes, due to the Knicks going small throughout the 4th quarter to see if that would do something, said Thibodeau afterwards.
- Bam Adebayo had 17 points and 14 rebounds.