Maybe that loss to the Washington Wizards was significant after all. Now, after their battle-of-the-East loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday night, the words “Miami Heat” and “trouble” are actually being used in the same sentence.
The home loss, their first of the season, was especially galling to the Heat because the Knicks were playing without Carmelo Anthony, who was on the bench after suffering a five-stitch cut on his middle finger Wednesday night. LeBron James was so frustrated that he headed for a workout in the weight room after the Heat fell, 112-92.
The home loss, let this sink in, was the worst for the Heat since King James arrived in South Beach with his talents in tow. It was a game in which, for 9 1/2 minutes before and after halftime, the Knicks were making 10 of 14 tries from beyond the three-point line. Defense, anyone?
“This game was played like a shootout but in the wrong direction for us,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t doing a whole lot to really discourage them or disrupt them from their rhythm. … You play with fire when you let a team really get hot and get open looks.”
Miami had not lost at home since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals and the Knicks are the NBA’s only unbeaten team at home. “We don’t lose that often at home,” said Dwyane Wade, who contributed his share to the struggles by making 3 of 13 shots. He and Chris Bosh made only 6 of 25 shots. “They shot the ball really well. You own it and not look for an excuse.”
The loss is the second consecutive 20-point loss to the Knicks and the frustration was evident when James, who finished with 31 points and was one assist shy of a triple-double, spoke after the game. “I think we communicate sometimes, and that’s not a good thing,” he said. “We have to communicate more and not have as many breakdowns.”
The Knicks now are 14-4, the Heat 12-5 and the New York Daily News trumpets “For Real!” New York is playing, David J. Neal writes, “with the strongest defensive identity this side of the Baltimore Ravens.” Make no mistake, these thumpings by the Knicks sting. “They pretty much kicked our [butts] the last two games, James said.
Can the Heat turn up the, well, heat and fix this? Spoelstra says they will. “We’ll stay connected,” he said he told his players. “We’re going to own this. We’re not going to brush this off, okay? Then we’ll fix it. Those three things. That’s it.”