Heat again streaking, push past Knicks 109-103

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Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·4 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.

“This was a game that we were going to have to win in the mud,” Spoelstra said of the uneven performance of both teams.

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.

“Just keep building,” center Bam Adebayo said. “That’s what we got to continue to do. We’ve got to stack these Ws.”

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

“We just stayed with it,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said.

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 Butler, who closed with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Butler’s rebounds and assists tied season highs.

“Everybody that played had some kind of contribution,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the most important thing.”

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

But closing time was the province of Butler.

“When the fourth quarter comes,” he said, “I just want to make sure that we win.”

———

Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday’s game:

1. Closing time: From a 94-94 tie with 5:15 to go, Butler’s first basket of the second half, with 4:18 left, 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 Herro’s 3-pointer with 33.4 seconds to play to make it, 106-99, effectively ending it.

“The ball came to me, I was in the right spot at the right moment,” Herro said.

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.

“We were able to hang in there, make some big defensive stops down the stretch,” Spoelstra said.

He reiterated that it is about more than schemes.

“The most important thing is the commitment to defend and do your job every single possession, regardless of what’s happening on the other side,” Spoelstra said. “So that is a step in the right direction.”

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.

“It’s familiar having Kenrick in that lineup,” Spoelstra said. “We did that for large parts of the season last year. And as much as we can keep the continuity together, we will.”

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, before stepping up late.

“If me coming off the bench is what’s best for the team, then so be it,” Herro said. “And that’s the role I’m in. On the really good teams, everybody stars in their role.”

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.

Bullock closed 7 of 14 from beyond the arc, with the Knicks cooling to a 16-of-42 finish on threes.