Knicks defense slips again in 2nd straight loss

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Mar 22, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) passes the basketball as Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) and forward Jimmy Butler (22) defend during the first quarter at Miami-Dade Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Still reeling from the jarring loss to a shorthanded Minnesota team and the passing away of NBA legend Willis Reed, the New York Knicks had a lethargic start on their two-game road trip.

For the second straight game, the Knicks allowed their opponents to wax hot from the outside. The result was another heartbreaker — a 127-120 loss to rivals Miami Heat Wednesday night that put a dent in their playoff push.

The Heat entered the game as the third-worst 3-point shooting team, hitting only 33.8% of their outside shots. But the Knicks gave them confidence early, and it swelled until it became overwhelming.

Heroes abound for the Heat, but none bigger than Tyler Herro, who caught fire in the fourth quarter. Herro drained all of his four three-pointers in the pivotal fourth quarter, where he put up 14 of his 22 points. Miami went 6 for 7 from deep in the final period.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau pointed to the Heat’s constant movement from Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry’s rim pressure to Kevin Love and Bam Adebayo cutting that kept their defense scrambling and gave Herro open looks.

“I thought our defense wasn’t good enough,” Thibodeau said. “Free throws hurt us, fouls hurt us, turnovers hurt us.”

The Knicks got careless again with 17 turnovers. The usually efficient Jalen Brunson had a season-high five turnovers that served as a big black eye to his 25-point and six-assist performance.

Julius Randle, who was coming off a career-high 57-point performance, was limited to 15 points, but he had nine assists.

RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes stepped up offensively with 26 and 22 points, respectively. But their overall defense was a step slow, like they did against the Timberwolves.

Their second straight loss kept them four games back of the fourth seed Cleveland Cavaliers with eight games left in their schedule.

The Heat, who caught the idle Brooklyn Nets for the sixth spot, cut the Knicks’ lead to just 2 1/2 games.

The Knicks will meet the Heat again on Wednesday in what promises to be another scrappy game with a playoff atmosphere. In the meantime, the Knicks will be looking to lick the wounds of the defeat against a young Orlando Magic team that has been playing well lately.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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