Heat again streaking, push past Knicks 109-103

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Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read
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Something as simple a winning streak has been anything but simple for the Miami Heat this season.

That, by itself, made it super Sunday for Erik Spoelstra’s team on Super Bowl Sunday at Madison Square Garden, with the 109-103 victory over the New York Knicks producing only the second winning streak of the season.

The next lofty goal? The first three-game winning streak of 2020-21 for the defending Eastern Conference champions, when the teams meet again Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Playing without Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley and Moe Harkless, the Heat and Knicks spent most of the afternoon counterpunching, before a late Tyler Herro 3-pointer put it away.

Bam Adebayo paced the Heat with 24 points and 11 rebounds, supported by 16 points from Kendrick Nunn, 16 from Herro, 15 from Kelly Olynyk, 12 from Duncan Robinson and timely contributions from Jimmy Butler, who closed with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Julius Randle led the Knicks with 26 points, with Reggie Bullock adding 21.

Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday’s game:

1. Closing time: It was tied 94-94 with 5:15 minutes to go, as the Knicks took what had been their outside game into the paint.

Butler’s first basket of the second half, with 4:18 to play in the fourth quarter, then put the Heat up 96-94.

A pair of Butler free throws and a lob dunk from Knicks center Mitchell Robinson then left the Heat up 98-96 with 3:12 left.

Misses followed on both ends, before Olynyk scored on a dunk off Butler’s ninth assist. Olynyk then converted the 3-point play for a 101-96 Heat lead with 2:23 left.

But back came Alex Burks with a 3-pointer with 2:05 left to cut the Heat lead to 101-99.

Then, with 1:38 left, Adebayo converted a pair of Heat free throws for a 103-99 Heat lead.

A pair of Heat defensive stops followed, as did a Herro 3-pointer with 33.4 seconds to play to make it 106-99.

2. All the defenses: Two nights after stifling Bradley Beal with a variety of defensive coverages, with the Washington guard closing 1 of 14 from the field, the Heat this time loaded up with traps and the zone, mostly in an effort to contain Randle.

That had the Knicks at .429 from the field going into the fourth quarter, albeit with Randle up to 22 points by that stage, already with his double-double in place.

3. Nunn again: With Dragic out, Nunn got his third start of the season, with the Heat opening with their 16th lineup in their 23rd game.

This time it was Nunn, Adebayo, Butler, Robinson and Olynyk as the first five.

Nunn shot 4 of 5 on 3-pointers in the first half, for a team-high 14 points over the first 24 minutes. The four 3-pointers tied his high for a game this season.

4. Taking the sixth: The lineup shift retained Herro in a reserve role, where he again sparked the Heat with his initial stint off the bench.

When it came to rounding out the rotation amid the backcourt injuries, Spoelstra went with Gabe Vincent as his fourth guard, ahead of Max Strus.

5. Three for all: The Heat’s shaky 3-point defense was shaky to the point that the Knicks converted their 10th 3-pointer with 3 minutes left in the second period, after entering averaging 9.5 conversions per game.

By the midpoint of the second period, Bullock already had tied his single-game career high of five conversions, closing the first half 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. Bullock had made five total 3-pointers in his previous five games.

The Knicks closed the first half 12 of 23 on threes. It was just the third time in the past five years the Knicks had made 10 or more 3-pointers in a first half.