Butler, Adebayo Key as Heat Topple Knicks in Matinee

A hot offensive start for the Knicks slowed to a crawl late when it mattered most against Jimmy Butler and the Heat on Super Bowl Sunday.

On Sunday, the New York Knicks (11-14) fell the Miami Heat (9-14) by a final score of 109-103. For the Knicks, Julius Randle finished with team-high 26 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Reggie Bullock finished with 21 points, including seven made three-pointers. For Miami, Bam Adebayo finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Kendrick Nunn finished with 16 points and four made three-pointers.

After a nice little win against Portland, the Knicks had another 1 p.m. tip-off against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Heat. Both teams got off to hot starts. For the Knicks, it was the Bullock and Randle show. Randle didn’t score much early but became the orchestrator on offense, finding good shot attempts for his teammates. By the second quarter, as the shot began to fall, Randle was firing on all cylinders. 

The biggest beneficiary of Randle’s creation was Bullock. Bullock finished with seven made threes, six of which were made in the first half. His ability to serve as a standstill shooter made him an easy target as the Heat defense crashed down to stop a ramparting Randle. On the other end, New York’s defense was nonexistent as Miami was getting anything they wanted. Randle’s defensive matchup, Adebayo, was also getting whatever he wanted. 

Once we switched to the second half, things got slower. Adjustments were made by Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra, resulting in a much slower game. As a result, the Knicks finished with just 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting in the third quarter. Bullock’s offense dried up, while Randle began to receive doubles when he touched the ball. The Heat didn’t do anything special, but the offense, which was reliant on two players today, fell off a cliff. 

The fourth quarter was much of the same—both teams playing at a slow pace. After a rather quiet three quarters, Jimmy Butler began doing Jimmy Butler things—attacking the basket and imposing his well to garner free throws. We’ll talk more about the Heat in a second, but this game came down to execution and experience and the Knicks just lacked that at the end. Even as Miami struggled to operate their offense, the defense was top notch and the pressure late in the game forced some awful shots at the end. 

A tough loss, a loss in which you see where the weaknesses are. The Knicks have ways to go and slowly but surely, I imagine they’ll figure it out. 

Some game notes

  • I got the Chiefs tonight 34-31. Tampa Bay’s defensive line might get to Mahomes (KC is down both starting tackles), but I’m banking on Mahomes to get enough time to make several big plays. I got money on Mahomes repeating as Super Bowl MVP, tails on the coin toss, and yellow Gatorade. 
  • The Miami Heat are good but so boring. They operate like a 1996 Bret Hart WWE match—nothing flashy, but effective. Throughout the game, I found myself lost while they were on offense, only to end up seeing the Knicks taking the ball out. Butler, Adebayo, and Kendrick Nunn had solid games, but they didn’t stand out and got the win anyway.  Again, no hate, but not exactly the most exciting brand of basketball. 
  • R.J. Barrett had a really bad game—three points and two rebounds. What was weirder was Barrett was almost nonexistent from tip-off. I found Butler and even Nunn doing a good job on him, but the Knicks didn’t look for Barrett at all, which impacted him and ultimately saw him finish with 19 minutes played. I’ll blame fatigue on this one. 
  • Outside of Randle and Bullock, the Knicks were stone-cold on offense. The Knicks got a ton of threes (16-of-42, 38.1% for the game), but couldn’t get anything at the rim or paint. Guys like Austin Rivers and Elfrid Payton couldn’t do much getting to the lane and the Knicks suffered because of it. 
  • Rookie talk: Obi Toppin played well. He got a few good looks in the second half and remained his active self. I loved the three he made and the attack and dunk were great to get him going. I want to see more of that. As far as Immanuel Quickley, it’s a shame he’ll lose some minutes if the Knicks officially acquire Derrick Rose because no one on the roster has that shooting/creation combination. This wasn’t Quickley’s best game (five points, three rebounds, and three assists), but the skills are there and he should be playing more. 

The Knicks travel to Miami to face the Heat to complete their home-and-home series. The game is set for Tuesday, February 9th. Tip-off is set for 7:30 pm ET.


Related Content

»READ: We just don’t know what Obi Toppin is yet

»READ: What are the long-term options for Julius Randle and the Knicks?

»READ: An unwaveringly slow pace is the Knicks’ chief identity

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