knicks jalen brunson
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t a surprise to see the New York Knicks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the absolute dominance with which it happened raised eyebrows. Now, what the Miami Heat did to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks was something else entirely. After the first round and given the history of this rivalry, all eyes were on Knicks-Heat Game 1 on Sunday afternoon. And it didn’t disappoint — at least for the neutral observer.

From a Knicks fan perspective, the 108-101 loss is tough to take. Despite a strong start in the first half, the Heat won the war of attrition over four quarters. Experience and shooting won the day.

With that said, there is no need to panic. Stick to the game plan. Going back to the first round for a moment, the Knicks dominated the Cavs in a few different ways. Perhaps most notably, Jalen Brunson (and to a lesser extent RJ Barrett) controlled the pace of games. It was rare to see the Knicks lose control of the tempo or be loosey-goosey with the ball. Even when there was a run-and-gun pace, it was Brunson dictating the terms of the engagement.

It was a bit different on Sunday. Brunson and Barrett combined for 51 points, but it was the nine turnovers that stood out. Although those turnovers didn’t lead to a ton of points, that type of carelessness can break an offensive rhythm. Expect to see a similar type of playoff pace between the Knicks and Heat as this series progresses. Don’t expect to see Brunson and Barrett be as careless with the ball going forward.

While the turnovers were crucial, the biggest knock on the Knicks in Game 1? They couldn’t hit shots — three-pointers (7-for-34) or free throws (12-for-20). Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made the simple, yet effective adjustment to pack the paint as the game progressed. The Heat funneled the ball out to shooters like Obi Toppin, Josh Hart, and RJ Barrett. At some point, someone has to make them pay for giving up wide-open looks. If New York hits a few more shots, this is a much different outcome. It’s not complicated.

Tom Thibodeau is going to catch flack for his rotations in Game 1, but that’s low-hanging fruit when it comes to criticism. Julius Randle missing the game and Quentin Grimes being limited to 10 minutes didn’t help. Those two accounted for 14 three-point attempts per game during the regular season. Game 2 is set for Tuesday night, but then there is a three-day layoff before Game 3.

That should give Randle and Grimes to get closer to 100% health. However, the Heat are dealing with injuries of their own. Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo are out for the series. We knew that before Game 1 began, but the new wrinkle is Jimmy Butler’s rolled ankle. Injuries are not an excuse in the NBA Playoffs. Injuries are a fact of life.

Game 1 didn’t go New York’s way, but this isn’t the time to panic. Rest up, put up a few extra shots on Monday, and come back ready to roll in Game 2. This is going to be a long series.

Follow Danny Small on Twitter @dwsmall8.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.