The Heat, which has had a terrible habit of losing to lousy teams, avoided that fate after a bad start on Saturday, averting what would been its most deplorable loss of the season to hold onto a playoff seeding for at least another night.
Down by as many as nine in the first half, the Heat broke a tie by opening the fourth with an 8-0 run and held the Knicks to 13 points in the final quarter of a 100-92 win at Madison Square Garden.
Miami entered having lost eight games this season to teams at least 10 games below .500. And this looked for a while like it might be the ninth, even though the tanking Knicks are fielding a team that more closely resembles a G-League roster.
This was one Miami desperately needed, not only because it was the easiest game left on its schedule, but also because its three primary challengers for playoffs spots all won: Brooklyn beating Boston (which didn’t play Kyrie Irving or Al Horford), Orlando winning at Indiana and Detroit defeating Portland.
In the process, Miami remained in the No. 8 spot, one half game ahead of No. 9 Orlando and one half game behind No. 7 Brooklyn and one game behind No. 6 Detroit.
Dion Waiters had his best game of the season, scoring 28 on a blend of three-pointers (six of them) and nifty forays to the basket, to go with six assists.
Dwyane Wade, who received a standing ovation from the Knicks crowd and cheers throughout, scored 16, including two layups to key that 8-0 run to open the fourth, and added seven rebounds.
But this was also a special night for Hassan Whiteside, who had 12 of his 17 points in the fourth and pulled down nine fourth quarter rebounds as Miami built a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Whiteside finished with 17 points (on 7 for 10 shooting) and 13 rebounds.
Kelly Olynyk scored 12 and Goran Dragic 10.
The Heat’s defense was shoddy early but eventually righted itself against the league’s only team that entered shooting below 44 percent. New York opened 1 for 11 in the fourth quarter and closed at 40 percent.
The Heat – which overcame a handful of mindless turnovers - played without Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder, who were back in Miami with injuries.