The Knicks couldn’t get out of their way in Miami on Monday night, dropping Game 4 to the Miami Heat 109-101, falling behind 3-1 in the series.
With New York desperately needing a win to avoid falling behind Miami 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they simply couldn’t execute when they needed to.
On the other hand, Miami answered every run that New York went on, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering Miami took Boston to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals just last year. They are battle-tested and experienced. The Knicks are not, and it showed on Monday night.
In a tense third quarter where the Knicks were trying to claw back from a double-digit deficit, it was Max Strus who seemed to always answer for the Heat. When New York cut the Miami lead to 72-69, Strus answered with a three-pointer. The Heat went back up by eight, but when the Knicks cut the lead to 82-78, Strus answered with a three.
While much of that is a credit to Strus, who was 4-of-10 from beyond the arc on the night, it’s also an example of the way that Miami has used high screens and constant ball movement to thwart New York’s defense.
Since Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme requires over-helping on drives, the Knicks are frequently scrambling in rotations and sprinting across the court for closeouts. Miami’s offense continued to use pump fakes and skip passes to keep the Knicks’ defense in constant motion until they lost focus or a shot opened up.
The Knicks simply lost focus too many times. They forgot help defense assignments. They lost track of off-ball players, and they were confused in their closeouts. Other times, they simply failed to match Miami’s pace and effort.
To make matters worse, the Knicks also lost focus on the glass, getting beaten handily by Miami in an area where they assumed they would have an advantage. On the night, Miami outrebounded New York 44-35, including a 13-8 advantage on the offensive rebounds.
The Heat had seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, while the Knicks had one.
New York also turned the ball over 17 times to just 12 for Miami. Miami scored 20 points off of those New York turnovers.
Yet, with their backs up against the wall, Tom Thibodeau didn’t adjust. The head coach came into this series 0-6 in the NBA Playoffs when his team trails two games to one and the criticism that he doesn’t make enough adjustments came up against on Monday night.
The Knicks players on the court played hard, but they made no defensive adjustments. There were no extra minutes for Miles McBride despite the Knicks needing perimeter defense. With Mitchell Robinson looking slow and injured, Isaiah Hartenstein played just 15 minutes.
The Knicks supposed depth was matched by the Heat, with Miami outscoring New York’s bench 30-10.
Jalen Brunson was great for New York on offense again. Despite his struggles to contain the Heat guards on defense, Brunson scored 32 points, with 11 assists and four rebounds. Julius Randle also added 20 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, but he had six turnovers and was inconsistent on defense.
On the other side, Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler paced Miami’s offense overall. Adebayo had 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Butler had 27 points, six rebounds, and ten assists.
The series is not over, but only 13 teams have ever come back from down 3-1 in the NBA Playoffs, so the Knicks will have their work cut out for them.
Game 5 will be at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night with the Knicks looking to fight to keep their season alive.