NEW YORK – Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s lopsided defeat against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Heat dipped below .500 again after putting together a three-game winning streak.
1. Back-to-back pathetic performances. If you thought Tuesday night’s first half was bad for the Heat in Cleveland, it carried over to New York on Wednesday. For the second consecutive game, the Heat struggled defensively and let an opponent light up the scoreboard with great shooting. The Heat has allowed a combined 140 points over the past two games and, according to its staff, gave up 65 or more in the first half of a game in back-to-back games for the fourth time in franchise history.
"It’s tough," said Kelly Olynyk, who led the Heat with 18 points. "We just got to be more consistent, both ends of the floor everywhere. We’re really, really up and down. It’s like we’re two different teams. We’ve got to figure out a way to bring the right team to the game every single time we step out there."
A night after the Cavaliers shot 61.7 percent in the first half against the Heat, Miami’s defense struggled again over the first two quarters allowing the Knicks to shoot 58.5 percent (24 of 41) and 63.6 percent (14 of 22) in the first quarter.
The Knicks shot 60.3 percent overall (44 of 73) and the Heat were limited to 38.1 percent (32 of 84) as Miami trailed by as many as 30 points in the second half.
2. Hassan Whiteside’s injury could be a big problem if he’s forced to sit out a while. Whiteside was held out Wednesday due to the ongoing soreness he’s experienced in the same left knee in which he suffered a bone bruise at the start of the season.
Without him, the Knicks carved up the Heat on both ends in the paint, outscoring Miami 58-32 as Enes Kanter led the charge with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
"I think it’s just they were more aggressive," Goran Dragic said. "Their big guys are strong and they got a couple of offensive rebounds and we start first two possessions they score easy and it’s kind of tough to stop them. I mean not tough to stop them but we just didn’t have it, no energy, nothing. We didn’t fight."
3. Bam Adebayo still made his shots, but looked like a rookie on the defensive end as he couldn’t slow down the Knicks’ frontcourt players. Adebayo made only his fourth career start and ran his streak of made shots to 11 of 11 before missing a shot in garbage time. But Adebayo couldn’t do much to prevent the Knicks from feasting in the paint even without star forward Kristaps Porzingis.
Adebayo who had a career-high 19 points the prior night against the Cavaliers mustered only nine playing more meaningful minutes Wednesday against the Knicks.
"That's the discouraging part of the game, is regardless of who we have out there, you want to lay it out there and compete every single possession," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It’s hard to figure out this team right now. That’s what I'm trying to really figure out, one game to the next. And it clearly was not the same team that started the road trip from a defensive standpoint."
4. Knicks lose best player less than three minutes in and roll anyway. Kristaps Porzingis suffered what initially appeared to be an ugly ankle injury, but was later diagnosed as an ankle sprain.
Porzingis, the Knicks’ 7-3 forward who entered the game ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring (27.0 points per game) got hurt with 9:30 left in the first when he and Justise Winslow were chasing a ball to the baseline and he rolled his right ankle when it got caught under Winslow’s foot and bent awkwardly.
Porzingis was taken to the locker room for x-rays and did not return to the game.
"They took x-rays and told us it was negative," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said after the game. "He wanted to come back in and play. He was probably available to play. But, we have three days off so there was no sense in rushing him back into the game for those reasons."
That and the Knicks offense having its way with the Heat even without him.
5. Limping home after opening the trip with a couple of victories that appeared to indicate the Heat was gaining consistency at last. The Heat followed its great win over the Celtics at home with an impressive win over Minnesota. Then despite an ugly first quarter against the Bulls, the Heat did enough to eek out a win in Chicago. Dragic was then named Player of the Week. In the past 48 hours, all those positive feelings and all that momentum evaporated as the Heat played two of its worst games of the season against the Cavaliers and Knicks.
The Heat heads home trying to figure out the puzzle again and has to quickly since following its home game Friday against the Hornets, it will play the Warriors Sunday and the Spurs next Wednesday.
So does the Heat go back to intense practices like it did before the Boston win?
"I'm not sure, but we'll just have to continue to address it and work on it," Spoelstra said. "It’s something that this team will overcome and the sooner the better. But we will overcome it, because we have shown that we can play much, much better basketball, regardless of whether Hassan's playing or not. We just weren't able to put it together tonight."