Knicks struggle to deal with Jimmy Butler, Heat

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Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News
·1 min read
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The Knicks went cold down the stretch against an intense Miami defense.

The Knicks’ winning streak was halted at two games following Sunday’s 109-103 loss to the Heat. The Knicks (11-14) struggled offensively in the second half against Miami’s traps and zone, then struggled to deal with Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter.

Butler fell one assist shy of a triple double, scoring eight of his 17 points in the final period.

The Heat (9-14), fresh off its Finals appearance in the Bubble, has struggled this season but has played a great deal without Butler. Miami is a different team with its All-Star in the lineup.

“When you look at their numbers when Jimmy plays and doesn’t play, it’s two different teams,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau understands the impact of Butler, having coached him in Chicago and Minnesota.

“The best part about his game is he plays to win,” Thibodeau said. “Oftentimes they think about scoring, they don’t think about passing. He’s always been a great passer, he’s always been a great competitor, he’s always been a team-first kind of guy.”

For the Knicks, it was the second game of a back-to-back and they failed to keep up with Miami’s pace in crunch time. They cut the deficit to two with about two minutes remaining, but the Heat responded with seven straight points — including Tyler Herro’s trey with 33 seconds left — to seal the victory.

Julius Randle led the Knicks with 26 points but the starting backcourt of RJ Barrett and Elfrid Payton managed a combined 10. Barrett scored just three points in 19 minutes.