On behalf of South Florida and hungry Heat fans, thank you, Knickerbockers, for being awful.
Thank you for playing the perspective-givers this NBA season — for being so abysmally bad that other teams, like Miami, for a random example, feel better about themselves by comparison, by simply being in your fetid company.
So it was in the downtown bayside arena Monday night. Miami did all it could to remind us why it is struggling for a playoff spot, trailing deep into the third quarter, but here was charitable New York coming through as you knew it would, reliably stooping to the occasion.
This is no small service the Knicks are providing: Raising others’ self-esteem wherever they go.
They are an Rx in sneakers. Good for what ails you.
You say the Heat was only 8-15 at home entering this game? No problem. The Knicks are now 3-23 on the road.
What? Miami was hanging onto the last playoff seed in the weak Eastern Conference? No worry. New York is tanking and stinking to the worst record in the league.
Oh, and the Heat had the second-lowest scoring average of any team? Sure, yes. But these were the Knicks, remember, so Miami had its second-most points all season in Monday’s 109-95 runaway.
The Knicks are a cure-all, the best thing since penicillin.
That was why, all over the court, things began swinging right for Miami — the “bigs” coming up large and even the guards, so often so bad this season, playing well.
The surge began with Chris Bosh, fulfilling the onus that was on him again with Dwyane Wade missing a sixth consecutive game with a hamstring injury.
After a cold 1-for-6 start shooting, the crane-like Bosh began to find his touch with that silky left-handed jumper of his Monday, finishing with a game-high 32 points and also what doesn’t show on a stat sheet.
“I can already assume that on our defensive activity sheet he scored really high,” coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward.
Other bigs chipped in, with an impactful third quarter from out-of-nowhere 7-footer Hassan Whiteside (nursing a tender ankle and scoreless in the first half) and a crowd-pleasing fourth quarter from Chris “Birdman“ Andersen.
Meanwhile, even guards not named Wade contributed for a change, with Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole combining for 30 points.
You can’t be sure how much of this was Miami’s will and how much of it was the Knicks being the Knicks. New York is so bad that frustrated Knicks owner James Dolan got an email from a disappointed lifelong Knicks fans and responded by calling him an alcoholic and telling him to go follow the Nets.
Bosh seemed to have the caliber of opponent in mind when he said postgame, “I don’t want to get to much ahead of ourselves. It was good night tonight.”
The Heat is hardly in a position to care how the victories come or against whom. Wins, especially at home, have been things to cherish this season.
Monday — Miami’s last home game before the All-Star break — would have brought a fourth consecutive Heat loss against almost any other opponent as Miami gave up 13-0 and 20-2 runs in the first half and trailed by as many as 14. The arena got numb-quiet except for Knicks fans who’d temporarily removed the bags from their heads to cheer Carmelo Anthony’s early run of threes.
That same early effort won’t be good enough Wednesday at Cleveland against LeBron James’ hot Cavaliers in the final game before the break.
Nevertheless, what Miami avoided Monday night was as big as what was accomplished. Losing would have marked a new season low for the Heat, a category unfortunately with fierce competition. I always hesitate and try to avoid describing any loss as an “embarrassment,” but losing at home to the lowly Knicks would have qualified or it would have been time to retire the word.
Maybe there is a sports god and he demands atonement. Not for your sins, but for your success. Maybe he believes in payback. Maybe when you get four years of LeBron resulting in four consecutive Finals appearances and two championship parades, what follows is … this:
A 22-29 record in a season beset by injuries. A season in which nothing seems to come easily, as evidenced by Monday’s 14-point early hole to the Knicks.
For Miami the season has been tougher than expected, a steeper fall, post-LeBron, than anybody expected.
The victories that end comfortably, free of late drama, have been the exceptions.
That’s why Monday night felt so good.
Even if it was “only” the New York Knicks.