Even in the waning weeks of autumn, the relentless Miami Heat overwhelmed the bleary Knicks offense on Monday night. The Knicks visited Miami in hopes of capturing their fifth-straight win, but their hosts were inhospitable, swarming them with a defense that is becoming one of the most oppressive in the league.
Besides playing for their longest winning streak since 2014, the Knicks’ fanbase has been buzzing about the prodigious play from their rookie phenom, Kristaps Porzingis. Straight off the tip, Porzingis began the night with a stroke of optimism, draining a wide open three to inspire an early 13-6 Knicks run. While the Knicks shooting was sharp for the first four minutes, it proved to be a minor aberration against a Heat defense that ranks first in opponent shooting percentage.
Porzingis was greeted with boos at the live draft in Brooklyn. The consensus among Knicks fans was that Justise Winslow — now of the Miami Heat– was a better option than the untested 20 year-old Latvian center. Knicks fans promptly made that night moot with –incredibly– early chants of “MVP” as he took his foul shots at the end of his previous game. Porzingis, statistically, did have another good night, scoring 20 points and grabbing 14 boards for his seventh double-double of the young season. Interestingly though, it was his fellow 2015 draft class contemporary, Justise Winslow who may have tilted the game in his team’s favor.
Winslow was tasked with guarding Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, and used his football background to physically harass him all night. While that would be an awful thing to do to someone in-real-life; in sports, it leads to a game-high +28 plus-minus.
There was a key moment early in the first quarter when the Knicks were tasting the last, mostly-ice sips of their lead. Anthony had the ball and was faced up by Winslow. ‘Melo, knew he had to come at the rookie, and went into tunnel vision, as he is wont to do. After a quick size-up, Anthony turned his back to the rook and internally committed to taking a patented Carmelo-Turnaround-Fun-Shot. As he began his mid-air rotation it dawned on him that league-leading blocker, Hassan Whiteside had also slid up to him while he was visualizing a grandiose splash. Instead he threw the ball away, over the opposite sideline. That pretty much encapsulated the entire contest.
With 2:40 left in the first quarter, Gerald Green utilized infinite hangtime to convert an acrobatic reverse layup, giving the Heat the lead. The Knicks would never come back. In fact the game seemed to be over by halftime, with one of the worst second quarters observed by sentient beings. The Knicks shot 29 percent in the second while Miami went on a 29-4 run. They finished the half with only 30 points to Miami’s 52. While that is a deplorable total, it’s ultimately a result of Miami’s austere defensive identity, as this is the third time –already– this year that a team has scored 30 or less against them in a half.
While Miami’s defense was the precursor to their winning formula, perhaps the most striking aspect of the contest was the utter impotence of the Knicks bench. The Knicks second unit has been lauded so far this season. The addition of position depth and youth have been an enormous impetus to the Knicks sterling early play. Monday night was a huge regression for the state of such confidence as the bench combined for a paltry ten points. Second year D-League success story Langston Galloway has specifically been touted, especially as he leads the league in three-point percentage. However tonight was one of the worst outings of his career, going one-for-nine with a game-worst -22 plus-minus.
The Heat held a lead of around 20 for most of the night behind stalwart defense and the traditionally nimble offense of Dwayne Wade –16 points–. With the win they improve to 9-4, which is good for second in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are also establishing a culture of home-field advantage with an 8-2 record at American Airlines Arena.
– Carmelo Anthony ended up with 21 points despite his 37 percent shooting percentage. 9-9 on free throws, and eight boards as well. He did well to pass out of double teams late, but he was forced to press too much because of the constant 20-point second-half deficit.
– Robin Lopez quietly had one of his better games, with twelve points, six offensive boards and a lot of unquantifiable boxing-out.
– Hassan Whiteside — five blocks– was everywhere; stalking the paint and keeping all Knicks penetration at bay.
– Chris Bosh shot terribly –2-12–, but managed 16 points by getting fouled a ton –11-12 free-throws–.
– Dwayne Wade looked spry as ever.
– That Tyler Johnson boy can hop!