DEFENSE vs DEFENSE. 4 Reasons Why Miami 98 NY 88 on 3-29-21

You never want to write an article after a Knicks loss. Well there are some times when it’s fun — but most times not. This is one of those times. Miami came into MSG on a Monday night with a 22-24 record, vs the Knicks’ 24-22 record — and beat the Knicks at their own game — DEFENSE.

Three reasons why the game ended the way it did:

1. Miami DEFENSE

Miami had lost 6 in a row, but didn’t look it. They lowered a defensive boom in the second half and looked like the team that went to the NBA finals last season, surprising everyone in “the bubble”. Coach Eric Spoelstra is one of the best in the business. Miami does not have a team loaded with talent — but they play great as a team. Miami is essentially Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and a bunch of complimentary players. Tyler Herro — who starred in the bubble — now comes off the bench for scoring. Goran Dragic is at the point. And Miami lays down a frenetic Defense throughout. Maybe they didn’t in their previous 4 losses and saved it up for the Knicks (some people said this on Twitter).

Miami hounded Julius Randle for the first 2 quarters until he broke loose late in the 3rd — ending with 22 pts on 7-17 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and helping the Knicks back into the game for the stretch.

Miami also took the Knicks scoring guards out of the equation in the second half — both RJ Barrett and Alec Burks had putrid performances. Barrett had only 8 pts on 4-12 shooting (0-4 from 3) for a -12 and Burks had only 6 points on 2-4 shooting in 27 minutes (a +3). That was the game right there. Reggie Bullock was back from injury and was 1-5 (0-4 from 3) for 3 pts and a -12.

In explaining the offensive issues, Coach Tom Thibodeau said in the postgame, “There was not a lot of rhythm to the game. It was a fight, claw, scratch for every inch of the court, and it’s not easy to get a rhythm in that kind of game.”

The Knicks played well in the first half and had a 7-pt lead at intercession.

2. Third Quarter Blues

Some blamed Elfrid Payton for the loss. In his 3rd game back from the hamstring injury that kept him out 2 weeks, Elfrid had 5 points on 2-4 shooting for a -12 in 19 minutes — and some pointed out he was on the court when the Knicks were outscored by 12 at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. The Knicks had a 7-pt lead at the half, but that run by Miami at the start of the 3rd turned the game around. But there were 4 other guys on the court with Payton, and Miami as a team amped up their defense coming out of the locker room. It was a key stretch, and coach Tom Thibodeau said in the postgame that they knew the beginning of the 3rd would be key, but still Miami outplayed during that key stretch.

Thibodeau: “We couldn’t get the 3 to go; that was the big thing offensively. But we had a 7-pt lead at the half, and we came out, those first 5 minutes of the third, they got us.”

3. Beaten Inside — Nerlens Great But Needed Mitch

Miami killed the Knicks on the boards in the 3rd and 4th quarters. They got many second and third chances after good Knick defense had forced a missed shot. They really needed Mitch Robinson in this game. Nerlens Noel played a terrific game (8 pts, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks). But by the 4th quarter, backup Taj Gibson started to look like he was performing on old legs. Nerlens Noel came in for him midway thru the 4th and provided a wall of defense.

But the Knicks missed Mitchell Robinson greatly in this game.

4. The Turning Points

Randle started breaking loose in the 3rd, and Derrick Rose (16 pts on 6-13 shooting) and Immanuel Quickley (12 pts on 4-11 shooting) providing offense, the Knicks pulled back from a 17-point deficit and made it a game into the 4th.

Two particular plays broke the Knicks back:

With the Knicks pulling to within 11 points with 8 minutes left, Obi Toppin defended an ahead-of-field-pass and layup by Goran Dragic — and Dragic ran out of bounds under the basket with the ball — firing it back off Tobin. But replay showed Toppin was already out of bounds when the ball hit him meaning it was off Dragic. Instead Miami kept the ball and Bam Adebayo hit a drive plus 1 for a Miami 13 pt lead. He missed the free throw but that hurt.

Still the Knicks climbed to within 8 points with 4:22 left in the game. Derrick Rose drove for a layup that pulled the Knicks within 6 — but Nerlens Noel swipped the netting under the basket and was called for offensive goaltending. The ball went to Miami who scored down the other end and it was a 10-pt lead soon to be 12 and 14. It was the final turning point.

Miami got 7 offensive rebounds in the 4th quarter alone. This caused numerous plays where good Knick defense was thwarted by Miami getting numerous offensive rebounds and second and third chances.

The Boxscore

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