How the Miami Heat have turned the Knicks strengths into weaknesses and taken control of the series

May 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) celebrates with guard Gabe Vincent (2) after scoring against the New York Knicks in the second quarter during game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) celebrates with guard Gabe Vincent (2) after scoring against the New York Knicks in the second quarter during game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Kaseya Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

It could be easy to roll your eyes at platitudes in postgame press conferences, but the one uttered by Julius Randle, one of the Knicks’ best players, after the Miami Heat took a 3-1 lead in the series was particularly poignant.

“Maybe they want it more. I don’t know,” Randle said.

The Heat entered Monday night with a 2-1 advantage in the series, having won the first game of the series at Madison Square Garden to steal home-court advantage and Game 3 on Saturday to maintain it. The Knicks entered knowing a 3-1 hole could be too much to overcome against a hostile Heat team. They were the team on the ropes. The one that had to play with desperation. They had every reason to “want it more.”

And yet the Heat came out and checked all the boxes typically associated with effort. The Heat out-rebounded the Knicks, out-scored the bench and won the important 50-50 balls down the stretch.

“That’s been who we are all year,” Randle said. “Got to find a way to step up and make those plays, keep this season alive.”

The Heat can close out this series in New York on Wednesday and become the first No. 8 seed since 1999 to advance to the conference finals. After defeating the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, they’ve gotten this close to knocking off another higher seed by turning the Knicks’ regular-season strengths into weaknesses.

Here’s where the Knicks ranked in the regular-season in their key performance indicators:

  • Rebounding percentage: 52.1% (second)
  • Turnover percentage: 13.1% (fifth-lowest)
  • Bench: Plus-1.9 points per 100 possessions (fourth)
  • Loose balls recovered: 5.3 per game (third)

And here’s where they measure in those same indicators in this playoff round:

  • Rebounding percentage: 50.1%
  • Turnover percentage: 14.4%
  • Bench: minus-6.0 points per 100 possessions
  • Loose balls recovered: 4.3

The Heat, meanwhile, are securing 31.4% of offensive rebounds, turning the ball over just 11.5% of their possessions, grabbing 7 loose balls per game and out-scoring the Knicks bench by 6 points per 100 possessions. The Knicks’ strengths have become the Heat’s strengths.


The Heat couldn’t buy a bucket in the fourth quarter of Monday’s 109-101 win over the Knicks. They entered with a nine-point lead but shot 27.3% overall, missed all nine of their 3-point attempts and scored just 19 points. But they managed to create extra possessions and soak up valuable time with seven offensive rebounds in the period.

“Was that the game plan in the fourth quarter to get those four extra possessions? I can’t say it was, but you have to make effort plays,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Perhaps the most back-breaking of Miami’s offensive rebounds came with just over seven minutes left in the game, the Heat nursing a six-point lead after the Knicks scored five-straight points. Caleb Martin put up a floater that bounced off the front of the rim. Both Randle and Mitchell Robinson were in position for the easy rebound, but Bam Adebayo squeezed through, tipped the ball out and Jimmy Butler grabbed it and laid it in.

“Spo has been making a big emphasis of first to the basketball, and I feel like these last couple games, we’ve been doing that,” Adebayo said.

Creating turnovers

Of the Knicks’ 17 turnovers in Game 4, seven of them were steals. The Heat haven’t been quite as aggressive jumping passing lanes as they’d been in the regular season, but they are opportunistic.

In the first quarter, Gabe Vincent got the jump on a pair of lazy Knicks passes to manufacture four points.

Butler, newly unleashed as a rover, intercepted a kick-out on a Quentin Grimes drive.

The Heat started trapping New York’s ball handlers in the second half, which led to a pair of steals including a swipe and score by Max Strus.

There’s a hustle-element to this for the Heat, but turnovers are more about focus. For the Knicks, they are going through the motions of their offense, not passing the ball with urgency or creating release valves for their stars. The Heat are locked in, watching to see when an opponent’s eyes glaze over and then getting ready to pounce.

Bench advantage

For the second straight game the Heat started the second quarter with an all-bench unit of Kyle Lowry, Martin, Duncan Robinson, Haywood Highsmith and Cody Zeller. In Game 3, this group outscored the Knicks 15-4 to open the second quarter and again helped extend the lead in Game 4, going on a 5-2 run before Adebayo checked in after about two minutes.

After being one of the worst 10 benches in the regular season, Miami’s second unit has gelled into a strength in the postseason. Much of the credit goes to Lowry and Martin, who started a majority of the season but have embraced rolls off the bench. The Heat’s “bench” is essentially anchored by two starters.

In Game 4, Lowry chipped in 15 points on 4 of 6 shooting and 5 of 6 from the foul line, five rebounds and four assists. Martin finished with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. Overall, the Heat’s bench outscored the Knicks 32-10.

“At the end of the day, we need everybody,” Adebayo said. “Tonight everybody contributed and we got a win.”

On Wednesday, the Knicks will be at home trying to save their season. Improved effort and focus should be expected. But by winning these micro-battles and continuing to build on their strengths, the Heat can win the game and close out the series.

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