Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s embarrassing 122-98 loss to the New York Knicks Friday night at Madison Square Garden:
1. With an opportunity to clinch the division and at least the No. 7 seed after Washington’s loss at home to Atlanta, the Heat laid an egg in its final road game of the regular season.
“I don’t want to take away from what they did. They played a great game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Knicks, who shot 50.6 percent and made 18 threes. “But the best way to say it is all across the board we were a no-show. I hardly recognized our team tonight compared to who we’ve been and how we’ve been playing.”
Miami, which enjoyed its biggest blowout win of the season Wednesday against the Hawks, played listless at times Friday night, leaving shooters wide open. The 18 threes by the Knicks were a season-high for New York (four more than its previous high) and tied for the most Heat has allowed in a game this season.
It also marked only the 15th time all season an opponent shot better than 50 percent against the Heat. Miami is now 2-13 in those games.
2. The good news: the Heat still controls its own destiny in the race for the sixth seed, which now could be a head-to-head series against the Philadelphia 76ers, who moved past LeBron James and defending conference champion Cleveland with a win Friday night over the Cavaliers.
If Miami wins its final two home games against Oklahoma City and Toronto, the Heat will secure the No. 6 seed regardless of what Milwaukee (42-37) or Washington (42-28) does down the stretch.
The question of course is if any of that really matters to the Heat. It honestly doesn’t appear to. What players were talking about in the postgame locker room more than anything else was not going into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak.
“It would be great,” Dwyane Wade said of securing the No. 6 seed. “[But more than anything] you want to go into the playoffs on a high note, you don’t want to be losing three in a row. You want to definitely go in winning and feeling good about yourself. The seeds, whatever happens at the end of the day from seeds standpoint, is what it is. We’re at the bottom we’re going to play a Goliath team anyway. It really doesn’t matter. We want to continue to play good basketball.”
3. Miami now has at least two losses to four lottery-bounds teams this season: the Knicks, Magic, Kings and Nets (three losses). So what gives?
“They just came out with a lot of energy and made a lot of tough shots,” Tyler Johnson said. “Once a team like that gets rolling, a team playing free like that, everybody gains confidence. It was tough. For us, I think, we have a lesson to learn from these types of teams we’ve played all year and kind of struggle with.”
Said Wade: “Definitely credit to them but these are the hardest games to play. It’s easy to play against OKC on Monday than it is to play against the Knicks or Atlanta or Brooklyn, guys who are not playing for the playoffs.”
It’s crazy, but the Heat’s winning percentage against the bottom five teams in the East (the Knicks, Bulls, Nets, Magic and Hawks) this season (11-9, .550) is worse than it is against the top 10 in the East (19-12, .612).
“We always play better against the teams that are on top,” Goran Dragic said. “So we’re expecting a good game [Monday]. Of course, we’re not going to leave it where we are. We’re going to play out game and we have to bring it at home, in front of our fans. It’s going to be an interesting game.”
Miami is 3-12 against the top eight seeds in the West.
4. The Heat will enter the playoffs having lost 12 of its last 14 games on the road. That’s two road wins since Jan. 29 at Dallas.
Only the Memphis Grizzlies (1-17) and Phoenix Suns (1-13) have fewer wins on the road since Jan. 30 than the Heat does.
The thing is if you take away the 16-point loss at Portland on March 12 and Friday night’s 24-point drubbing by the Knicks, the Heat’s other 10 road losses over that stretch are each by six points or less. Nine of those 12 losses were also to playoff teams.
The Heat has averaged 105.1 points on the road (18th in the league) since Jan. 30 and has shot just 43.6 percent from the field (23rd) and 34.8 percent from three-point range (21st). Defensively over that same stretch on the road, Miami has ranked 15th in points allowed (108.1), eighth in opponent field goal percentage (45.6), and 15th in three-point field goal percentage allowed (35.6).
When Miami started the season 16-11 on the road, the Heat was allowing only 100.6 points per game (third-best), 44.1 percent shooting from the field (4th), and 35.4 percent shooting from three-point range (11th). Offensively over that same stretch, Miami ranked 26th in points scored (100.7) and 11th in both overall shooting percentage (45.8) and three-point shooting (36.8).
5. Dragic, Johnson and Wade all returned from sitting out Wednesday’s game from injury but it hardly made a difference.
Dragic led the Heat with 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting in 24 minutes, Wade scored seven points on 3 of 9 shooting in 19 minutes, and Johnson had 12 points and four assists in 23 minutes.
While Wade said he’s always going to feel anxious about his right elbow, which he fractured last season, Johnson feels like his ankle pain is behind him.
Dragic, meanwhile, has been dealing with tendinitis for weeks in his left knee. At least the ankle pain is gone for the most part, he said.