Takeaways from the Heat’s 106-104 loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden:
▪ The Heat played another close game because, well, that’s why that do.
This was the 36th Heat game this season featuring clutch minutes, defined by the NBA as the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.
No team has played more clutch games, or clutch minutes (155), than Miami, which is now 20-16 in such games. And this one came down to the final second, when Tyler Herro missed a three that could have won it.
Here’s how the final three minutes went down:
Bam Adebayo hit a jumper to pull Miami within 95-93, and RJ Barrett and Jimmy Butler then traded baskets, leaving the Knicks up two at the two minute mark.
But Quentin Grimes -- who was problematic for Miami on a 17-point night -- hit a three, putting the Knicks up five.
Tyler Herro - who was very good in the second half - came back with a jumper, leaving Miami down three.
Adebayo was then called for goaltending on a driving layup by Barrett, and an officials’ review upheld the call.
A Herro jumper trimmed the Knicks’ lead to 102-99 with under a minute left.
Adebayo then made a steal off an inbounds pass, was fouled and nailed the two free throws to leave New York up 102-101 with 48 seconds left.
But Isaiah Hartenstein got loose for a dunk to put New York up three.
Chaos followed. Herro missed a three, but the Heat regained possession and retained it for a bit with some risky passes. But the last of those passes - a difficult one by Max Strus - was intercepted, and Julius Randle dunked in transition to put the Knicks ahead 106-101.
A Strus three left Miami down 106-104 with 2.9 seconds left.
On the ensuing in-bounds play after a timeout, Randle appeared to lose his footing, and Adebayo was called for a foul - a call that Miami challenged. The Heat won the challenge, giving Miami the ball with 2.1 seconds left.
Herro got the inbounds pass from Gabe Vincent and missed a turnaround three from the corner at the buzzer.
“I thought it was a good look for us,” Herro said. “We had two options - me going to the corner and Max coming to the top. Max had just hit one. I thought it was going to him. It was a read by Gabe to make whatever play he thought had the better shot. Thought I had a good look. It was still a tough shot. Good shot, missed it.”
▪ Minutes after learning he would be going to his second All Star Game, Adebayo played like an All-Star. But Butler, bypassed for the All-Star Game, had a quiet night.
Adebayo scored 30 for the ninth time this season, closing with 32 on 11 for 16 from the field and 10 for 11 from the line.
“We’re a better basketball team when Jimmy and Bam are attacking,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Bam also made some big plays defensively down the stretch.”
There were plenty of impressive moments from Adebayo, none more striking than a second quarter dunk when he drove past a Knicks defender and drew a foul from a helpless Evan Fournier.
Adebayo had 12 in the first half, then added 20 in the second half. He also chipped in nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Butler, bypassed for the All-Star Game, got to the line only once all night - unusual for him - and missed that free throw.
He scored the game’s first points on a jumper, but went to the half with six.
He finished the night with 10 points, on 5 for 13 shooting, and declined to comment after the game.
More was needed from Butler on a night the Knicks got 30 from Barrett and 23 from Randle.
▪ Herro (along with Adebayo) sparked a third quarter rally that pulled Miami out of a 14-point hole, then helped Miami get close again in the fourth, but missed the potential game-winner.
Herro shook off a quiet first half (six points, 2 for 6 shooting) to score 19 in the second half. He scored his 25 on 10 for 22 shooting.
New York opened the third on an 11-0 run, stretching a three-point halftime lead to 14. The Heat didn’t score until 4:56 had elapsed in the third, when Adebayo made a jumper.
And then Herro erupted, hitting three three-pointers to spark a 19-5 run.
But two threes by Quentin Grimes sparked a Knicks surge that put New York up 77-72 after three.
The third quarter has been problematic for Miami all year. The Heat has been outscored by 1.8 points per game in the third, which is the third worst differential in the league. Cleveland opened the third quarter of Tuesday’s game with a 9-0 run before Miami steadied itself and rallied to win.
New York pushed the lead to 92-81, before two baskets from Herro - a jumper and a layup - made it a 94-89 game with 4:59 left. He scored twice more down the stretch, keeping the Heat afloat.
The Heat fell behind by 13 early, a recurring problem of late.
“It’s on the starters, mainly getting off to slow starts,” Herro said. “We can’t keep doing that, especially against teams that are playoff contenders, trying to get in and trying to gain ground in the standings. We can’t come out slow.”
▪ Even with Orlando Robinson sidelined by a fractured thumb, Spoelstra again bypassed playing Dewayne Dedmon, opting instead for Udonis Haslem.
Dedmon hasn’t played since arguing with Spoelstra on the sidelines and then throwing medical equipment on the court after he retreated to the locker room during a Jan. 10 game against Oklahoma City.
He was suspended for Miami’s next game and Robinson played ahead of him in every game since until Thursday, when seldom-used Haslem got the nod over Dedmon.
Haslem - playing in his 20th and final season at age 42 - played four first quarter minutes, without a shot attempt or rebound, and then returned for a three-minute stint midway through the second quarter, grabbing two rebounds along the way.
The Heat was outscored by seven points in the minutes that Adebayo wasn’t on the floor.
Haslem played three minutes in the second half and closed with two rebounds and a foul in 10 scoreless minutes, missing his only two shots from the field, in his fifth appearance of the season.
Spoelstra said he originally planned to play Dedmon and Haslem. “With the words Heat-Knicks, it was very fitting I play UD,” he said. “He gave us some good minutes.”
The Heat is trying to move Dedmon’s contract before Thursday’s trade deadline. Under league rules, Miami has up to $6.1 million in available cash to motivate a team to take his contract, with the Heat hoping to take no money or less money back.
Dedmon, who’s being paid $4.7 million this season, said the Heat hasn’t informed him if it plans to play him or trade him. But he remains in uniform every game.
▪ The bench had some good moments on a night that Victor Oladipo was sidelined by a sprained ankle.
Max Strus, who has shot threes better recently, connected on three of his first four in an 11-point first half. He finished with 17 points and five threes.
“When we find Max in rhythm, when he’s open and not having closeouts so fast where he has to rush it, he’s a great shooter. The numbers still support that,” Spoelstra said.
Vincent shot only 2 for 8 but had five rebounds, four assists and two steals and swished a beautiful 17-foot turnaround jumper, drawing “oohs” from the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Haywood Highsmith played his usual harassing defense, sank his only three shots (on a seven-point night) and added three rebounds.
With Oladipo out, Spoelstra used four of his five available bench players. Dedmon was the only healthy body who didn’t play.
▪ Even with Knicks starting point guard Jalen Brunson sidelined due to illness, this was another quiet night for Kyle Lowry, whose shooting slump continues.
Lowry had another slow start, opening 0 for 6 from the field, including 0 for 4 on threes. When he was on the floor in the first half, the Heat was outscored by 20. When he was off the floor, the Heat outscored the Knicks by 17 in the first half.
But Lowry has hit some big shots in the third quarters of recent games and he did it again Thursday, putting the Heat ahead 67-66 with a three. He then fed Butler for a basket in transition, capping a 19-5 Heat run.
But that three was Lowry’s only basket of the night. Spoelstra again opted for Vincent down the stretch, and Lowry finished with three points, two assists and a rebound and 1 for 7 from the field in 24 minutes.
“I was just trying to get some footing and traction in the fourth quarter,” Spoelstra said when asked about Lowry sitting in the fourth quarter for the fourth time in five games. “Finally that group started to get some rhythm so I let that ride. I had every intention of bringing Jimmy and Caleb [Martin] back. Decided to ride that [group] to the end.”
What does Lowry think of not playing late in close games?
“As a competitor, you want to play, but our coach makes that decision,” he said after Thursday’s game.
“He will do what he feels what’s best for the team. As a competitor, of course I want to play. As a teammate and guy who just wants to win, I’m riding with the decision of coach. Those guys did a great job, had a chance to win the game.”
Lowry is now 9 for his last 36 overall from the field and 7 for his last 26 on threes. He’s shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field.
“Just missing shots,” Lowry said. “Getting good looks. I’m missing shots I wish I could make but got to keep being in the right spots and helping my teammates grow.”
Lowry has now scored in single digits in seven of his past nine games.
The Heat has not been shopping Lowry but will listen to anything presented to them on the trade market. The Clippers reportedly have shown interest in Lowry, who will be paid $29 million next season in the final year of his contract.
▪ The Heat lost a chance to distance itself from the seventh seed, which comes with a spot in the NBA’s play-in round.
With a chance to move three games ahead of the No. 7 Knicks, Miami instead saw its lead slip over New York to one game. New York took a 1-0 lead in the season series, with three games remaining between the teams over the next five weeks.
The Heat (29-24) remained sixth in the East and fell 2.5 games back of No. 5 Cleveland, which beat Memphis.