From Marc Berman:
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said during the NBA Finals last October he’d like to build a gritty defensive culture like Pat Riley’s Miami Heat.
Thibodeau has done an excellent job at trying to get there, but his Knicks still can’t beat the Heat.
Their three-game winning streak snapped, the Knicks allowed Miami to sweep the season series, 3-0, as Thibodeau’s favorite player, Jimmy Butler, led a second-half comeback with 27 points.
With Miami getting down and dirtier than the Knicks, the Heat powered to the 98-88 victory at the Garden.
It’s funny. That was a bad loss, no doubt about it, and yet Berman somehow had to be extra douchey about it. The Heat barely edged out back to back wins over the Knicks and then won tonight pretty handedly. How is that “owning” the Knicks?
That said, losses like these definitely do sort of speak to the Knicks’ identity so far this season, which is that Thibs has them working hard for every win, so they don’t lose to bad teams, but after some early wins against some good teams, the Knicks have since spent the last couple of months just not beating good teams. The Heat aren’t even .500 and a possible win over them was (rightly, I believe) seen by Knick fans as being a big statement.
That they couldn’t pull it off was a statement, as well. That they’re the disciplined team that plays above the sum of its parts and always competes, so they’ll take down the bad teams that are undisciplined and are less committed to winning, but then will fall short once they’re up against a good team.
Always beating the bad teams is a very good thing. The fact that I don’t think any one of us really doubts that the Knicks will win on Wednesday is an awesome thing. A lot of that is owed to Thibs. He pushes them the way no one has pushed this team in over two decades. I’m very pleased that this is a team that I have total confidence in against a bad team. I legit can’t even remember the last time the Knicks lost to a bad team (after checking, it looks like it was the Magic over a month ago), but it’s a lot harder to grind out wins against good teams.
Taking down the Heat would have been huge. Not just for the standings (as the East is such a mess that at least a top ten finish seems like a near certainty), but just to reshape the narrative around this team, to give us a happier picture of the future of this team as a playoff threat.
They still have time to reshape that narrative, but it didn’t happen tonight.
Three other stray observations…
1. They really should give Randle a game off. Dude looks like he is pressing. Either Minny or Detroit would be a good spot to rest him a game to get back to at least 90%.
2. While most of the team struggled, Nerlens Noel was outstanding. With the awful Mitch news, we are so lucky that the Knicks have such an excellent backup/fill-in starter in the middle.
3. Alec Burks has been playing so well that it was a bit disconcerting to see him get just four shots (with him hitting two. All four shots were threes) while Rose and Quickley combined for 24 shots (making ten, although they were a strong 5-11 from three between the two of them).