When the NBA released its regular season schedule in August, the first thing Chris Bosh noticed was how he and his Heat teammates were going to be on the road for 14 games during a 16-game stretch starting the second week of January.
Then he saw Miami’s seven-game home stretch in November and knew it was an opportunity that couldn’t be wasted.
“You don’t want to look back, fighting for a playoff spot and you’re a half game out, like, ‘Ahhh. What about that game against such and such? We were up, had a chance to win and we lost it,’ ” Bosh said Monday at the team’s shootaround.
The Heat didn’t let its opportunity go to waste. Miami closed out its seven-game homestand 6-1 after pounding the New York Knicks 95-78 on Monday in front of the 256th consecutive sellout crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena.
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“It’s great to walk away from it 6-1 with a team that’s still learning how to win basketball games together,” said Dwyane Wade, who along with Bosh led the Heat with 16 points. “You can’t ask for nothing more. We did our job during this homestand, and now we move on.”
After 13 games, the Heat (9-4) trail only LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers (11-3) for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Miami used a 29-4 run in the first half to pull away early from the Knicks, who shot 32.2 percent from the field, made only 4 of 24 three-point attempts and had their four-game winning streak snapped. Coach Erik Spoelstra called it the Heat’s best defensive effort of the homestand and said it’s clear “some defensive habits are being built.”
Monday’s game marked the seventh time this season the Heat has held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting. Miami came into the game ranked No. 1 in field-goal defense.
The defensive effort was needed. Miami shot only 38.3 percent, 5 of 19 from three-point range and for the first time this season nobody scored at least 20 points.
Five scorers reached double figures. Bosh scored his 16 points — 11 from the free-throw line — on a 2-of-12 shooting night. Wade scored eight in a row in the third quarter get his 16. Hassan Whiteside chipped in with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Goran Dragic had 13 points and five assists, the same as Wade.
“These are the games we always talk about when we say you have to have a strong defense — because sometimes when the rhythm isn’t there, the shots aren’t falling,” Bosh said. “You always want to be able to be in the game. Not only were we in the game, but we had a little bit of a lead, had a comfort level in the entirety of the game and were able to kind of figure out the offense in between.”
The Knicks (8-7) jumped out to an early seven-point lead and went ahead 17-13 lead with 5:47 remaining in the opening quarter when Robin Lopez grabbed his own miss and put it in over Whiteside.
That’s when the Heat turned the tables on New York. Miami closed the quarter on a 13-2 run and then outscored the Knicks 16-2 to open the second quarter, mostly behind Bosh and the bench.
Gerald Green, who has struggled with his outside shot since his return (he’s now 1 for 13 from three-point range), hit a pretty up-and-under layup to put the Heat ahead 19-17 and then soared for an alley-oop dunk from Josh McRoberts to open the second quarter. Green then grabbed the rebound off a Justise Winslow missed layup and slammed it home to put Miami ahead 35-21.
When Tyler Johnson hit a corner three on a dish from Winslow less than two minutes later, the Heat had doubled up the Knicks 42-21. Johnson finished with 12 points.
“I’m glad he had some easy ones,” Bosh said of Green. “I think the highlights he had is really going to help him moving forward.”