November 28, 2015
For extended stretches, especially at the outset, it was a sluggish game with lethargic players in front of a muted crowd at Madison Square Garden.
What this one called for was someone to step up and generate enough moments to make a difference.
Gerald Green obliged. So did Chris Bosh. And Dwyane Wade.
Ultimately, that was more than enough for the Miami Heat to roll past the New York Knicks 97-78 Friday night.
"We're trying to develop the power of the unit," coach Erik Spoelstra said.
This one ultimately was decided by a subset.
Starring Green, who led the Heat with 25 points.
"We call him the hurricane," Spoelstra said, "because he has that type of explosion."
And yet this also was about Green's defense, opening the game against Carmelo Anthony and helping limit the New York forward to 11 points, none after the opening period.
"For me," Green said, "my main goal is defense. Offense, for me, is going to come easy."
And it did on this night, 8-of-14 easy from the field, 4-of-8 easy on 3-pointers.
The victory was the Heat's eighth in a row over the Knicks, their longest-ever winning streak in the enduring rivalry.
On a night when Heat center Hassan Whiteside could actually look languid despite grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking six shots, the Heat found enough caffeinated moments to produce just their second road victory of the season.
From Bosh there was a 14-point second quarter when the Heat were scrambling for offense. He finished with 20.
From Wade there was a Euro-step dunk in transition early and then an ankle-breaking pull-up jumper that probably still has Langston Galloway scrambling to regain his balance. Wade scored 17.
"They brought the veteran approach of what we need from them," Spoelstra said. "Guys were able to play off them and their veteran experience."
And, finally, from Green there was a third-quarter 3-pointer immediately followed by three free throws when fouled on a shot beyond that arc that allowed the Heat to push to their first double-digit lead of the night.
"As a player you do kind of see you need to get something going," Green said of that six-point takeoff point.
Still, none of those six points were as dramatic as what Wade did to Galloway.
Wade pled ignorance of just how far he sent the Knicks guard sprawling.
"I wasn't focusing on him," he said. "I was focusing on the shot."
Ultimately, this was the resounding rebuke Spoelstra was looking for after Wednesday's blowout loss to the Detroit Pistons at the start of this two-game trip.
"It takes a great collective toughness, mental and physical," Spoelstra said. "So we had to bring that tonight."
Along the way, the Heat made Anthony disappear after the first quarter. Anthony had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter. He closed with those 11 on 4-of-13 shooting.
But this was never about Anthony or Kristaps Porzingas or the supposed Knicks revival that the Heat muted with two victories over New York this week.
This was about moving past the stench of Wednesday's loss at the Palace of Auburn Hills before opening a four-game homestand Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Boston Celtics.
"I give this team a lot of credit," Wade said, "for understanding how we had to come back and win this game."
The Heat went into the fourth quarter up 74-63 and rolled from there, with Green loading up with highlight moments.
With Bosh scoring his 14 points in the second period after scoring only two in the first quarter, the Heat overcame a seven-point deficit to push to a 50-49 halftime lead.
Already without starting small forward Luol Deng, the Heat had to further alter their rotation when Josh McRoberts was called for two fouls within his first six minutes on the court. That had Udonis Haslem entering out of the deep freeze late in the first quarter and playing into the second. Beno Udrih also was forced into action for the Heat.
The Heat had to alter their lineup for the second consecutive game, with Deng out because of a nagging hamstring issue that first became problematic in last Saturday's home victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
That again had Green in the starting lineup, ostensibly to keep Justise Winslow in his familiar spot in the reserve rotation.