MIAMI — In the late morning at AmericanAirlines Arena, Knicks backup center Bobby Portis called the Heat “the shocker team in the league this year.’’
By the late evening, the Knicks confirmed it — victims of a shock-and-awe performance by the Heat, who brutalized the visitors from the opening tip, ran up a 34-point lead and prevailed 129-114.
Interim Knicks coach Mike Miller, whose record fell to 3-4, knew this would be a huge step up in class after his team throttled Atlanta on Tuesday. He cited the Heat being near the top of the NBA in offensive and defensive rating (points per 100 possessions).
“They’ve proven they’re hard to beat,’’ Miller said.
No kidding. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra — still smarting from the firing of his buddy David Fizdale — had his Heat running on all cylinders, drilling 3-pointers and getting to the hoop for dunks with their young guns as the Knicks appeared defenseless.
Now the Knicks get the Bucks (25-4) on Saturday at the Garden in a ridiculously tough back-to-back. Milwaukee stomped the Knicks by 44 points earlier this month, leading to Fizdale’s axing days later.
“It’s kind of hard not to remember it,’’ said Portis, who led the Knicks on Friday with 30 points on 12 of 17 shooting. “They whipped our tails that night. We let that hurt till midnight and we got over it. I feel like we’re a new team now. We’re balanced. Everybody knows their role.’’
It didn’t look quite like that in Miami. Ironically, superstar Jimmy Butler (nine points, eight assists) was quiet scoring-wise as the Heat moved to 21-8.
Miami center Bam Adebayo led six double-figure scorers with 20 points. Second-year man Duncan Robinson hit 6 of 10 3-pointers for 18 points and rookies Kendrick Nunn (15 points) and Tyler Herro (nine points, 5 of 10 shooting) also contributed.
Meanwhile, Knicks rookie RJ Barrett suffered through one of his worst outing coming off a career-high 27 points against the Hawks. Barrett was 1 of 10 for two points and zero assists. He was 0-for-3 from beyond the 3-point line and missed his pair of free throws.
Center Mitchell Robinson had a good game with 18 points and Marcus Morris added 15, but the defense wasn’t there.
Heat center Meyers Leonard finished off the first half with force — ramming home a putback dunk with .1 seconds left to give the Heat a 70-47 lead.
Miller’s Knicks allowed the Heat to shoot 61.5 percent from the field in the half. Miami jumped on the Knicks from the start and built an early 15-6 lead after five minutes, forcing Miller into a timeout. Miami hit 6 of its first 8 shots — including 3 of 4 from 3.
Late in the first quarter, Miami got up by 20 points at 34-14 after a Herro floater. Herro, the 13th selection in the 2019 draft, nailed a 3-pointer from up top midway through the second quarter to give the Heat their biggest lead of the half at 24 points.
Heat president Pat Riley has two good-looking rookie shooters in guards Nunn and Herro, a one-and-done out of Kentucky. Nunn had a crazy path to the NBA, going undrafted in 2018, playing in the G-League last season before making it big with the Heat.
In the first half, Miami shot 9 of 19 from 3-point range while the Knicks were a brutal 2 of 13. And the Heat hurt the Knicks by tossing a series of alley-oop lobs for their young athletic forward Derrick Jones Jr. to dunk.
Barrett did not perform well under the Miami pressure. He was just 1 of 8 in the half, missing both of his 3-point attempts. One of his 3-balls was overshot so badly, he missed the rim entirely and it bashed off the far corner of the backboard.
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