Game 1 of the East Semifinals between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat reignited the longstanding rivalry from the ’90s. In front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd, the Heat came back in the second half to score a 108-101 victory.
New York led at halftime but completely crumbled in the second half. Nobody could hit three-pointers from start to finish, the offense never looked in sync, and the Heat’s defense just did the rest.
Game 2 is Tuesday and the Knicks need a serious bounceback performance.
The Knicks never looked right. Where to begin with what went wrong for the Knicks in Game 1? Julius Randle, who dominated Miami in the regular season, sat out with a sprained ankle and his physicality was missed. Shooting a paltry 20.6% from three as a team rarely wins games.
Not even Jalen Brunson looked good despite 25 points and seven assists. He was 0 for 7 from three, going so far as to call his own performance “horrific.”
Miami, on the other hand, kept communicating and stayed focused even through their worst stretches.
The Butler did it. Forget that the Knicks shot 47.7% from the field to the Heat’s 42.4% and still lost only tells half the story. Jimmy Butler quietly had a great game to lead the heat, scoring 25 points with 11 rebounds and four assists. What’s more, he sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter and Miami still rolled.
The silver lining is that even in defeat, the Knicks did a good job slowing down Butler’s game. He attempted and missed one three-pointer and never took control of the Heat’s offense. We’ll see how he looks in Game 2 but Butler was also noticeably limping after injuring his ankle, even staying in the game.
Miami is already down Tyler Herro. They’ll need to put in even more hard work if Butler plays injured.
Miami is the more experienced team. It also isn’t a complete surprise that the Heat outplayed the Knicks in Game 1. First, the rivalry is such that both teams always bring that little something extra against each other. But more importantly, Miami is still just three years removed from a run to the NBA Finals.
We saw it all game. The Heat trailed most of the time and ran cold, but still communicated better. We can see this in their 26 assists on the game to the Knicks’ 20. Miami also committed just eight turnovers while forcing 13.
The Knicks might be the better team on paper in this was just one game of a potential seven. However, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra knows this journey well and his experience could be enough to outmatch Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks.