In a do-or-die Game 4, the Knicks put up a better effort but ended up outclassed and outpoised once again, losing 109-101 to the Miami Heat. They now find themselves down 3-1 in the series, a nearly insurmountable deficit, as they head back to Madison Square Garden.
New York once again fell behind early, this time keeping tighter and mounting several comeback attempts. Each one was met with a backbreaking three or untimely turnover.
The good news is their stars showed up offensively. Jalen Brunson had a 32-point, 11-assist game despite seeing double teams and getting banged up all night.
RJ Barrett scored 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting. Julius Randle added 20 points and nine rebounds.
Jimmy Butler led the way for the Heat with 27 points and 10 assists on 9-for-17 shooting. Bam Adebayo added 23, Max Strus scored 16 and Kyle Lowry contributed 15 in the win.
The Knicks returned to the starting lineup that turned their season around, inserting Quentin Grimes in for Josh Hart.
Unfortunately the change couldn’t inspire a better start from New York, who committed four early turnovers and trailed 17-11 midway through the first quarter. Butler and Adebayo combined for 14 of Miami’s points.
Something clicked, and the Knicks settled down offensively, limiting easy Heat buckets and getting their stars in their spots. Randle dominated inside, Brunson pulled out his repertoire and Barrett continued his ruthless efficiency by scoring to combine for 23 first quarter points. Miami led after the period 31-30 behind four early threes.
New York’s offense hit another wall with the bench in and Immanuel Quickley out of commission. Miami went on a 14-2 run as their visitors scored one point in three minutes to open up the second.
The Knicks cut the Heat lead to four behind miracle banked in threes from behind the backboard courtesy of Brunson, but went on another scoring drought, ultimately shooting 6-for-21 from the field in the period. Miami got anything it wanted on the other end, and led 56-48 at the half behind 16 Adebayo points.
New York managed to hang around in the third, even cutting the lead down to one possession midway through the quarter behind some high-effort defense and Barrett buckets. Adebayo continued his feasting inside, bulldozing through Mitchell Robinson and flying high for alley-oops.
Every Knicks run seemed to get pushed back by self-sabotage or a Heat response. On one play Barrett and Grimes both had an open rebound and humbled it out of bounds.
While New York fought for every bucket, Miami routinely found easy looks. They led going into the final period, 90-81.
Down 95-84, Barrett hit a three and then got inside to cut the lead to six. The next play, Butler collected an offensive rebound and finished the putback. Miami killed New York on the offensive glass with seven offensive boards in the final 12 minutes.
“It was great that we were able to hold home court,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we know we have a task in New York.”
They’ll take a 3-1 lead into Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday night, one win from wrapping up this East semifinal matchup and returning to the conference finals for the third time in four years.
Max Strus scored 16 points, Kyle Lowry added 15 and Caleb Martin had 10 for the Heat. Miami became only the fourth No. 8 seed in this NBA playoff format — now in its 40th season — to win at least seven games. The 1999 Knicks won 12 on their way to the NBA Finals, while Memphis won seven in 2011 and Philadelphia won seven in 2012.
This Lakers series has gone pretty much identically. Game 1, which the Warriors appeared in control of for a good portion, same as Game 1 in last year’s Finals, goes to the Lakers. Warriors take Game 2 in convincing fashion before the Lakers come right back and dominate Game 3.
So here we are, yet again, in what is basically a must-win Game 4 for the Warriors. We all know what Steph Curry did in Game 4 against Boston, scoring 43 points to steal the soul of a Celtics team that had, to that stolen home-court advantage. Boston never won again.
Can Curry and the Warriors pull off something similar against the Lakers on Monday night? They better. They are not coming back from a 3-1 deficit. Anthony Davis presents way too many matchup issues to expect three straight wins with their back against the wall, even if two of them would be at home.
This isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Warriors even in this postseason. They were down 2-0 to the Kings in the first round and faced what was essentially a must-win Game 3 without Draymond Green. They rolled. I’m here to tell you the Kings looked and felt like the better team for a good portion of that series, but the Warriors pedigreed their way to a Game 7, where Steve Kerr pulled the Curry card.
Kerr had to pull the same Curry card earlier against the Lakers, going to an almost exclusive pick-and-roll attack in Game 2. It worked. But the Lakers adjusted in Game 3, and now Kerr needs to answer in Game 4 to give Curry the space, and matchups, he needs to have the big game the Warriors need.
I have suggested starting Jordan Poole. I cringe as I say it. But I think it’s necessary to force Davis back onto Draymond and into the Curry actions. Whatever move Kerr makes, it has to be the right one. This is familiar territory, but it doesn’t make it any less daunting against a bigger, more physical Lakers team that has probably the biggest matchup problem the Warriors stand to face in these entire playoffs in Davis. He keeps the Warriors out of the paint on one end, and is too big for Green, and too fast for Kevon Looney, on the other.
That said, the Lakers don’t have anyone who can credibly guard Curry, either. It’s all about putting him in position to exploit his advantages. If Kerr doesn’t figure out how to do that, Curry will have to figure it out for himself on the fly. He did it last year in the Finals. He did it against Sacramento. He’s done it countless times through his postseason career. He’ll need to do it again on Monday, not necessarily as a scorer, but as the dominant force on the court if the Warriors intend to tie this series up and swing the momentum back in their favor.
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