Butler takes over as Heat snaps Knicks’ win streak

The New York Knicks had no answer for Jimmy Butler.

Butler, one of Tom Thibodeau’s favorite former players, took over in the third quarter and led the Miami Heat to a season sweep of the Knicks, 98-88, Monday night at The Garden.

Butler scored 27 points, including 15 in the pivotal third quarter, as the Knicks defense collapsed.

Miami was red-hot in the third quarter. The Heat shot a scorching 68.4 percent en route to 39 third-quarter points after only scoring 36 in the first half.

New York’s seven-point halftime lead quickly evaporated inside the first three minutes of the third quarter. Butler strung up seven straight points and tied the game at 47.

Duncan Robinson added 11 of his 14 points as he went hot from long distance, helping Miami in the 18-point turnaround.

The Heat grabbed an 11-point lead heading into the final quarter, and the Knicks never recovered.

“We knew that they would come in with that type of intensity, and we gotta play the same way, and we didn’t,” Thibodeau lamented.

Miami snapped its six-game losing skid and ended New York’s three-game winning streak.

Julius Randle returned from a one-game absence but struggled against the Heat’s double-teaming schemes. He still led the Knicks with 22 points but only shot 7-for-17 and padded his score during garbage time.

Miami led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks tried to wage a rally and came within eight, but a Nerlens Noel offensive interference on a Derrick Rose shot stopped their momentum.

Two straight baskets from Bam Adebayo put the game away.

Noel admirably tried to fill in Mitchell Robinson’s spot with eight points, 11 rebounds, and four-shot blocks. But he failed to keep Adebayo from the glass. The Heat big man was a dominant force scoring 20 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, seven of them came from the offensive glass.

Robinson had a successful surgery earlier in the day after fracturing his right foot in Milwaukee last Saturday night. The Knicks didn’t offer a timetable for his return, but he’s most likely done for the rest of the regular season.

The Knicks could have used him to shadow Adebayo.

“When you give the other team 13 offensive rebounds, you’re gonna pay for that,” Thibodeau said. “A lot of them were multiple effort-type of plays. They tipped the ball back, and we didn’t chase the ball down.”

The Heat, though, only had 12 offensive rebounds, but that resulted in 12 second-chance points and six more shot attempts from the field.

RJ Barrett and Alec Burks, who were on a hot streak coming into this game, were held to single digits.

Barrett scored only eight points on 4-for-12 shooting while Burks saw his five-game streak of at least 20 points got snapped with only six off the bench tonight.

Rose and Immanuel Quickley combined for 28 points off the bench, but the Knicks starters just did not have the lift.

The Heat starting unit heavily outscored their Knicks’ counterparts, 67-46. It was the biggest difference in the slow-scoring game that reeks of the 90s Miami-New York classic wars.

Despite the Knicks going scoreless in the first four minutes of the game and not having an assist until the second quarter, they scratched and clawed to get back into the game. A 16-0 run in the second quarter helped them build a seven-point halftime lead, 43-36.

But once Butler decided to take over, the Heat rekindled their Bubble form.

Miami remained at eight to seventh spots with a 23-24 record, tied with the Boston Celtics. The Knicks fell to fifth with a 24-23 slate. The Atlanta Hawks are breathing down their necks with a 23-23 record in the bunched-up Eastern Conference.

The Knicks hope to bounce back on Wednesday against Thibodeau’s old team, Minnesota Timberwolves, who pushed the Brooklyn Nets to the edge before dropping a 112-107 loss.

New York beat Minnesota, 103-99, last February 21 in what became the death knell of Ryan Saunders, who was fired after the game.

The Knicks will face a different Timberwolves team under Chris Finch.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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