MIAMI — Listen, stranger things have happened. It’s sports. Human error is heavily involved. Teams have risen from playoff ashes to recover from 3-1 deficits.
Although the Knicks haven’t shown much in the way of chutzpah during this series, they’re still technically just one road victory away from recapturing home court advantage.
But before ideas of miracles can be muttered, there are a few problems the Knicks need to figure out.
“Every shot we take is contested,” Derrick Rose told the Daily News. “And it’s vice versa for them.”
That’s the simplified version from a player, a veteran of 52 playoff games, who has witnessed this entire series from the Knicks bench.
Left unsaid are the layered reasons why it’s been so difficult for the Knicks to score and defend.
So here are four that best explain why the Knicks trail 3-1 to the Heat. It also can be read as four things Tom Thibodeau’s squad needs to reverse for an improbable comeback.
RANDLE’S HOUDINI ACT
This one is simple to understand. When a roster has one All-Star, it can’t afford for that player to disappear and melt under the spotlight.
Randle, a force during the regular season, has elevated his numbers in one sad category during the postseason: turnovers.
He’s also returned to the poor displays of body language that defined his last season. The frustration carries over to Randle’s defense, which has alternated from semi-intense to ho-hum.
Much of this is about Bam Adebayo, an elite defender who can handle Randle one-on-one in isolation. The other part is Miami’s game plan to collapse the paint when Randle drives and draw a charge. The third part is Randle freezing up and missing shots. His 23.1% on 3-pointers in the playoffs just isn’t going to cut it.
LOSING THE TRENCHES
This has been a stunning reversal. After Mitchell Robinson dominated the Cleveland series and snatched Jarrett Allen’s heart, the center has been utterly outdone by Miami’s front court.
The uptick in the Heat’s experience and physicality has proven a burden on Mitchell, especially in the last two games with the Knicks allowing a combined 26 offensive rebounds.
Thibodeau has built a system around winning the rebounding battle, keeping his centers glued to the paint to protect the rim and anticipate missed shots.
It ruins spacing but theoretically creates extra possessions. The Knicks can’t lose the paint. But they have.
And again, Adebayo is a problem for the Knicks.
“He has to do all of it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo. “He has to play the pick and roll coverages. He has to defend a great scorer in Randle, who is relentless with his attacking and knows how to draw fouls, he’s physical. And then when Bam is matched up against their centers he has to box out and rebound. And when he’s on the perimeter, he has to go back and rebound. He’s our best rebounder. So there’s no classic rebound he has to get. He has to do all of the above. He’s done that for sure the last two games.”
Like the rebounding, depth was supposed to be a Knicks advantage. Thibodeau has bragged all season about his second unit carrying enough talent to start elsewhere in the NBA.
Except against a depleted Heat squad, New York’s reserves have been an overwhelming negative.
Obi Toppin? Providing nothing on either side of the ball.
Immanuel Quickley? Shooting 24% on 3-pointers in the playoffs and currently nursing a sprained ankle.
Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes? Missing shots and not stopping Jimmy Butler.
For Miami, Kyle Lowry and Caleb Martin are winning their bench minutes. Even Cody Zeller has been an impactful presence.
The Knicks’ reserves have been outscored in the series, 116-62, which is difficult to overcome. Lowry scored more than them combined in Game 4.
THIBODEAU’S WRONG BUTTONS
Whether it’s failing to attack a hobbled Butler or riding an unimaginative offense or allowing Jalen Brunson to (unsuccessfully) chase around Max Strus, the Knicks coach has been one step behind Spoelstra all series.
Understandably, adjustments aren’t easy when the 3-pointers aren’t falling like with the Knicks.
But there’s also this undeniable fact: Spoelstra has a 3-1 lead despite missing Tyler Herro for the entire series, despite Butler suffering a sprained ankle in Game 1, despite relying heavily on the undrafted (Strus, Martin, Gabe Vincent) and the supposedly washed up (Love, Lowry).
Thibodeau owns the talent edge but hasn’t found a way to take advantage.
Source: Berkshire mont